Missouri's win over No. 9 Tennessee big step in Pingeton's process

The Tigers won their first game against a team ranked in the top 10 in three years.

Sophomore Morgan Eye keeps the ball away from a Chicago State defender in November at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers upset No. 9 Tennessee 80-63 on Sunday, the first win over a top 10 team in three years. Maneater File Photo

Twitter doesn’t offer much variety on Super Bowl Sunday because most tweeters share their feelings about America’s biggest sporting event in 140 characters or less.

But through the clutter of blackout jokes and commercial critiques, followers of Missouri women’s basketball players found celebratory messages filled with exclamation marks and pictures of teammates hugging on their timelines. Sunday afternoon’s 80-63 win over No. 9 Tennessee was the program’s Super Bowl.

“I don’t think it’s any secret, this is a program that hasn’t had a lot of success in the last few years,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.

Entering the 2012-2013 season, Pingeton combined for just a 26-36 record in her first two seasons at MU, a time period that saw just seven conference wins for the Tigers. The last time Missouri beat a team ranked in the top 10, Pingeton was coaching at Illinois State.

“You got to go through the fires, and the fires are hard,” Pingeton said. ”There are a lot of growing pains. We didn’t take over a program that was in the middle of the pack; we took over a program that was really struggling.”

Some of those growing pains are not too far in the past. The Tigers were blown out by the Lady Vols 84-39 in Knoxville less than a month ago.

“I just think laying the foundation brick by brick; this is another brick in regards to building that foundation,” Pingeton said. “I think our kids need to be really proud of it.”

Pingeton said this was another step in a long process.

“Everybody wants a quick fix, but when I took this job I remember (MU Athletic Director) Mike Alden and I talked about the process,” Pingeton said. “He wanted a program that was built on a very strong foundation and understood the time it was going to take.”

Part of that process involves recruiting players that fit in Pingeton’s system. Players like sophomore guard Morgan Eye, who has broken multiple Missouri three-point records, have helped the program become a mainstay towards the top of the NCAA in three-point shooting.

“This is a great win for them,” Tennessee senior guard Taber Spani said. “No one shoots the ball like them that I’ve played against in four years,”

The effects the win has on the program may not be immediate. After the struggles of Pingeton’s first two seasons, the win over the Lady Vols will potentially change how high school basketball players around the country view Missouri basketball.

“I think it’s a little bit of an eye opener for recruiting, opens up some doors that way, too,” Pingeton said.

But right now, the current players couldn’t care less about the process.

“In all my career, I’ve never felt something like that after a game,” senior center Liz Smith said. “It was just something so great to experience with all my teammates.”

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