Missouri looked like it was on its way to another non-conference blowout. Nine minutes into the first quarter, the Tigers had taken an 18-2 lead.
But Southeast Missouri State University then went on an 18-4 run, pulling the game within two points with just more than three minutes left in the first half.
But the Tigers retaliated, shooting 5 for 7 in the final three minutes, including three 3-pointers from sophomore guard Morgan Eye, to extend their lead to 10 points at the break.
“I think we felt that we were letting up a bit on defense,” Eye said. “We weren’t talking as much as we were in the beginning, so we knew that we needed to start on the defensive end, and once we got that going, we were able to get a few shots to fall, and were able to build up our lead again.”
Once the Tigers built it up, they never let it go, outscoring SEMO 44-25 in the second half to secure a 80-51 win over their in-state rival.
Eye finished with 15 points on five shots, all 3-pointers.
“I think a lot of players will tell you that you kind of get in a zone,” Eye said. “You just play the game, and when you feel it, you feel it, and I guess I was kind of feeling it tonight.”
Senior guard Sydney Crafton must have been feeling it as well. Crafton led the game with 26 points, going 11 for 13 from the field.
“I feed off them,” Crafton said, referring to her teammates. “It’s not something that I do, it’s something that we do. Most of my points came from fast breaks, and that’s not from me. It’s from them getting rebounds and me busting out.”
The Tigers (5-2) came out throwing darts, making seven of their first 10 shots but would shoot under 30 percent for the rest of the half. But the team returned to form in the second half shooting 51.5 percent.
“We didn’t hit all of our shots, but we started hitting at the end,” Crafton said. “I think if we can do that throughout the game, there’s no limit for us.”
Thursday’s game was Missouri's first after a three-game stint in Cancun, where the Tigers went 1-2, suffering their first two losses of the season. In those three games, Missouri averaged 20 turnovers per game. Against SEMO (3-4), Missouri committed just nine.
“Coach (Robin Pingeton) talks a lot about how we have to value each possession,” Eye said. “That was something that has been talked about a lot the last couple of days at practice.”
After the trip back from Cancun, Pingeton said the Tigers lacked focus in practice this past week.
“I wasn’t sure how we were going to come out of the gates,” Pingeton said. “They all assured me that they’d be ready to go, and I thought they were. I felt like we came out strong.”