Depth proved to be the difference for Missouri women's basketball Thursday night as the Tigers upsett No. 16 Vanderbilt 59-54 thanks to 30 points off the Tigers’ bench.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Missouri.
“I thought our bench play was just outstanding tonight,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “Vandy’s a really good team, and I thought defensively we were spot on for 40 minutes.”
The Tigers (14-7, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) were led in scoring by senior forward Bri Kulas, who despite foul trouble finished with a game high 15 points, but freshman forward Kayla McDowell stole the show, scoring 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
McDowell and sophomore forward Michelle Hudyn were a major difference in the first half for Missouri after Kulas and freshman forward Jordan Frericks had to sit from foul trouble. The duo gave the Commodores frontcourt all they could handle and helped the Tigers take a 33-20 lead into halftime.
“We held Morgan Eye to two points, but we let everybody else have their career high,” Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. “I thought we did a decent job on Kulas, but you can’t let other kids be All-Americans.”
While the Tigers' lead swelled 16 points, Missouri struggled in the game’s final six minutes, allowing the Commodores back into the game. Despite holding Vandy to 22.2-percent shooting, the Tigers were sloppy with their fouls and allowed the Commodore’s leading scorer Christina Foggie to get to the charity stripe and bring the Nashville school back to within 10.
The Commodores would continue to pressure the Tigers inside with Kulas and Frericks continuing to sit out for period of time due to foul trouble. Freshman Marqu’es Webb proved to be a force for Balcomb’s squad finishing with nine points and nine boards to keep the Commodores in the game.
“We needed a post player to step up, and she stepped up in the second half,” Balcomb said. “We needed that all game.”
Vandy cut the lead to one on a three-point play by Kylee Smith with 52 seconds to play, then had a chance to take the lead 26 seconds later when Kulas drew her fifth foul on a charge.
But Webb traveled on a post-move the ensuing possession, and sophomore guard Morgan Stock and McDowell each hit a pair of free throws to put the game on ice.
The Tigers hit the road this weekend and travel to South Carolina for a Sunday matinee.