Story by Wesley Roesch
Photos by Samuel Quintela
Missouri forward Kayla McDowell (20) makes her way to the basket against an Alabama defender. The freshman had 12 points and 11 rebounds coming off the bench.
COLUMBIA — After trailing Alabama by 10 at the half, the Missouri women’s basketball team made it interesting by taking the lead with 7:40 to go in the game.
Missouri’s improved shooting in the second half allowed the team to go on a 10-0 run and take the lead, but a couple of 3-pointers by the Crimson Tide helped Alabama take the lead and eventually move on with a 59-56 win.
The loss dropped the Tigers to 14-10 and 3-8 in the Southeastern Conference, while the Crimson Tide improved to 11-12 and 4-6 in the SEC.
“We had a chance at halftime to regroup a little bit,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “I thought our girls had a really good second half of basketball. But in this league you’ve got to be able to put 40 minutes together.”
After going 1-for-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Tigers fixed their 3-point shooting and hit four in the second half. Missouri guard Morgan Eye hit three of those four 3-pointers and had 19 points on the day. This is the second 19-point game she has had in SEC play this season.
Despite the improvement in shooting in the second half, the Tigers finished the game with just a 32.3 percent shooting percentage. Missouri’s 56 points scored tied the team’s lowest point total of the season.
“For me today I felt like I got extremely good looks,” Eye said. “I’m a junior now so I expect to knock those down. I’ve just got to do better at knocking down shots, I think all of us do. We put time in the gym so we’ve just got to knock them down.”
Eye contributed four of the 10 points in Missouri’s 10-0 run in the second half, giving the Tigers a 49-46 lead. Alabama forward Ashley Williams answered with a quick jumper and a layup, and then the two teams traded 3-pointers by Eye and Alabama guard Sharin Rivers.
Alabama led 53-52, and Missouri forward Bri Kulas hit a pair of free throws and gave Missouri a 54-53 lead. With 2:15 to go, guard Daisha Simmons dropped a 3-pointer and gave Alabama the lead once again, and later hit a layup with 35 seconds left, which basically sealed the game for the Crimson Tide.
“We were really fortunate to sneak out of here with a win,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “This is a hard place to play. I just thought we did a great job of execution and getting the ball in the right people’s hands to make plays.”
The Tigers struggled mightily in the first half, which caused them to trail by 10 going into halftime. Missouri’s first half woes included going 8-for-28 in field goal attempts and turning the ball over seven times. The Tigers finished the game with 14 turnovers and continue to rank at the bottom of the SEC in turnover margin.
Missouri has now lost three straight games and seven of its last eight, but Pingeton suggests that the team still has plenty of fight left.
“We’re at year four of building a program,” Pingeton said. “I think it’s really important for our staff and for our players… to remain focused and understand the process that we’re in. It’s a tough league. I’m a long way from surrendering. I’m not gonna throw in the towel. We’re gonna… continue to work hard to take this program to that next level.”
Missouri is scheduled to go back on the road next week to face Auburn on Sun. Feb. 16 before heading to Florida on Feb. 20.
Missouri forward Bri Kulas (13) beats Alabama defender Shafontaye Myers (12) to the basket for a layup. Kulas finished the game with 18 points for the Tigers.
Missouri forward Jordan Frericks (22) goes after a loose ball. Frericks had nine rebounds in Missouri’s home loss to Alabama.
Missouri guard Morgan Eye (30) shoots a 3-pointer over Alabama defenders Oceana Hamilton (34) and Khadijah Carter (3). Eye had 19 points for the Tigers.
Missouri guard Lianna Doty (1) runs down the court on a fast break for the Tigers. Doty played 37 minutes and had six rebounds and five assists in the loss to Alabama.
Missouri players signal for their team to take it slow in the final minutes of the game. The Tigers lost to the Crimson Tide 59-56 and fall to 3-8 in conference play.