The freshman foundation delivers hope to Tigers

Freshmen Kyley Simmons, Morgan Eye and Bree Fowler give the Tigers a cause to believe in.

Casey Purcella / Graphic Designer

From the start of the season, Missouri women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton has said she and her staff are in the process of building a successful foundation for the program.

After Wednesday’s loss to Iowa State at Mizzou Arena, Missouri's 11th loss in a row, she reiterated that idea.

“We are not quitters,” Pingeton said. “We are just going to keep working hard. We are laying a foundation. We are building a program. There is absolutely no quit.”

The performances of the Tigers’ freshmen during this season might prove the foundation process is successfully moving forward. Freshman Kyley Simmons led the team in scoring against Iowa State with 14 points and four assists, and freshman Morgan Eye barely missed a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.

“I think they’ve really studied the game, maybe even a little too much, because they’re hard on themselves,” Pingeton said. “I’m excited for their sophomore, junior and senior years. I think they’re going to continue to grow and get better. They bring the right attitude and mindset, and help us change the culture.”

In her first year at Missouri, Simmons has shown she will be a force for the Tigers when seniors Christine Flores and BreAnna Brock leave. She has started all 22 games, was the first of the three freshman to start and currently leads the team in assists with 84 on the season.

Simmons also leads the team and is fourth in the Big 12 Conference in most minutes played, averaging 34.5 minutes per game. Simmons said what she does while on the court is what matters.

“It doesn't phase me,” Simmons said. “Going through my mind I have to push and give my team everything for the whole 40 minutes. When I'm out, I have to get back in with the same energy I had at the start of the game."

Even though both are starters, Eye had to take a different road to get to the starting lineup. After rotating starters through the first half of Big 12 play, Eye was given the starting opportunity at guard when the Tigers traveled to Texas on Jan. 25. She impressed with eight points, followed by 13 points and seven rebounds when the Tigers hosted Oklahoma three days later.

She has started every game since, had her sixth double-digit scoring game against Iowa State and is ranked in the top five in 10 different team categories.

Eye has fought to improve throughout the season despite it not translating into wins.

“Coach told us that the scoreboard does not matter as long as we play with heart,” Eye said. “To her that is a win, so we just have to keep doing that and remember what we do well."

The third freshman on the team, Bree Fowler, has not seen as much action as Simmons and Eye. She is averaging only 2.2 points per game and did not score against Iowa State. Her best stat is leading the team in highest three-point field goal percentage with a rate of 40 percent, although she has only made 10 three-pointers all season.

But Pingeton said she is not discouraged by Fowler’s performance at all.

“Her great work ethic, integrity and academic performance represents everything we want our program to be represented by,” Pingeton said.

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