Through the first month of the season, no team has benefited from 3-point shots as much as Missouri. In their first nine games, the Tigers averaged 9.3 3-point shots per game, the most in Division I women’s basketball.
Before this week, Missouri averaged 8.4 3-point field goals per game, a respectable number that tied the team for eighth in the nation. But in the last two games, the Tigers have drained a total of 25 from outside, launching them to the top spot in the country.
No player has contributed more to Missouri’s rise from range than sophomore guard Morgan Eye, who leads the team with 34 3-pointers this season. The next highest is junior guard Bri Kulas with 13.
Eye has been especially hot this past week. She started out by setting a record with eight 3-pointers in a win over Tennessee-Martin. It appeared Eye had her sights set on breaking her own record in Thursday night’s win over Missouri State when she made four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes.
"My teammates kept encouraging me to shoot the ball, so I said, 'OK, sounds good,'" Eye said. "They kept feeding me and driving it and I had some really good looks — my teammates found me open."
Coach Robin Pingeton said the success from beyond the arc is a mix of having the right personnel and running the right system.
“We work hard on that in practice, but those are also the kind of kids that we recruit,” Pingeton said. “We want kids that are fundamentally sound, that have a high basketball IQ and can knock down shots. We’ve got a lot of kids that can do that, but that fits our style of play, so we spend quite a bit of time on that.”
Pingeton also relies on players to take it upon themselves to improve their shooting on their own time.
“We really challenge our players because we don’t want to keep them here for three or four hours at a time,” Pingeton said. “(The need) to have that discipline from a time management standpoint to get a lot of reps in outside of practice and over the course of a week.”
Missouri wins with 3-pointers. In Missouri’s six wins of the young season, the team averages close to 10 3-point field goals per game. In its two losses, Missouri converted just five total.
But even with that correlation, Pingeton said she doesn’t want players standing around waiting for an outside shot.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that, obviously, spot up on that 3-point line,” Pingeton said. “We can get a lot of shots off. But we want to be an inside-out team.”
In the first eight games of the season, senior center Liz Smith averaged less than three points per game. But on Thursday she scored 14. Smith understands that the shooting from outside can benefit a post player like herself.
“It’s going to get me more opportunities in the future as well,” Smith said. “Morgan’s had great games and she’s a rock star shooter so getting those screens set will open up opportunities for me.”