In its first two games of the young season, the Missouri women’s basketball team led by an average of 18.5 points with five minutes remaining in the second half. At that same time Thursday night against Western Illinois, the team was tied.
But with 4:34 remaining, senior guard Sydney Crafton laid the ball in after a pass from freshman guard Lianna Doty, giving Missouri the lead. The Tigers didn’t look back, maintaining the lead for the rest of the game to give them a 70-61 victory.
After those two relatively easy wins, it was unclear how Missouri (3-0) would respond when tested. Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said she thinks playing in a tight game early in the season will pay dividends later.
“I think they’ll thrive on it,” Pingeton said. “I think this was a great warm-up game for those kind of situations.”
Though the Tigers hadn’t been tested until this point, Pingeton said she thinks the attitude of the team benefits them in close games.
“I feel like we’ve got kids that have supreme confidence in themselves and in each other,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got kids that have poise. I think those are the kind of kids that we’ve recruited. I think if you’re a competitor, you live for those moments.”
Part of that poise Pingeton mentioned comes into play when a teammate is having an off night. Junior Bri Kulas, who led the team with an average of 16 points going into Thursday’s game, was just 2-14 from the field, finishing with just six points against the Leathernecks (1-2).
But Kulas’ teammates picked her up. Crafton led the team with 19 points. Another player to step up, sophomore guard Morgan Eye, finished with 12 points, including a 3-pointer she made after a pump-fake sent a Western Illinois player flying past her with just less than two minutes left, extending the lead from six to nine.
Doty also stepped up, playing every minute of the second half and finishing with an impressive stat line of 14 points, eight assists and six steals, energizing the team in her first career start.
“There was more energy added to the lineup (with Doty starting),” Crafton said.
Doty said the energy she brings comes from conditioning in the offseason.
“I pride myself on being in the very best shape possible,” Doty said.
Pingeton said she thinks Doty's high personal expectations will take her far in her career as a Tiger.
“I think she’s going to have an amazing career here at Missouri,” Pingeton said. “I think her expectations of herself and where we’re trying to take this program to are extremely high.”
Doty and the rest of the team will travel south of the border for their next three games as they face Wichita State, Green Bay and Minnesota in Cancun during Thanksgiving break.