How the Missouri women’s basketball team beat ‘Bama
A tale of reduced turnovers, underdog play and one unlikely hero.
Feb. 12, 2016
After two consecutive losses that dropped Missouri to the bottom of the Southeastern Conference, tonight’s contest against Alabama was a make or break game. Luckily for the Tigers, it was at home.
With only five games left in the regular season, the women’s basketball team’s remaining unranked opponents are expected to provide five more Missouri wins. The Tigers got the first of these tonight, winning 63-52.
In a game with 10 lead changes, Missouri prevailed against Alabama by fixing its perpetual problem, remaining aggressive and giving an unprecedented hero the chance to step up.
An unlikely hero emerged. After injury complications with her knee throughout the season, redshirt sophomore Kayla McDowell finally had her breakout game and it came at the perfect time. With senior Morgan Stock going 0-5 on the night, someone needed to make up for the absence of Stock’s usual clutch shooting. McDowell stepped in.
"I thought Kayla played really well for us,” Coach Robin Pingeton said. “I just felt like she played within the flow of our offense and I don't think she tried to force things. She had some good passes and good ball movement and some strong finishes at the rim. I thought this was by far her best game of the season, which is exciting to see.”
Coming off the bench, McDowell was flawless from the field with five buckets and 11 points, a season-high showing.
They played as if they were losing. You know that old saying about never playing down to another team’s level when you’re better or ahead? Well, the women in black and gold definitely followed that age-old rule tonight.
The Tigers played with the same aggression and precision when they were down as when they pushed ahead by double digits. In fact, if you didn’t see the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, based on the team’s play, you may have thought they were losing. They were up by 10.
The ball movement was sharp. Finally, finally, finally the turnover numbers went down, all thanks to consistently tight ball movement. The swinging passes that reached nearly every player before someone took a shot made the crowd ooh and aah, a reaction the team doesn’t usually get from tossing the ball around.
After a game full of precise passing, swinging the ball cross-court, the Tigers ended up with 16 assists on 21 field goals, selfless numbers to say the least.
Bama defended the Tigers with a zone. Missouri loves to play against the zone, according to junior Sierra Michaelis. With an offense that broke down the zone easily, the team ended up with only 12 turnovers. That was quite an improved result from having 27, a season-high, in Missouri’s previous game, a loss to Mississippi State last Sunday.
Practice makes perfect and it's clear the players have been striving for that behind the scenes. They’re not there yet, but are significantly closer than last week. If the team can keep up with the same improvements, its portfolio will have a much better chance at higher seeding come Selection Monday.
Missouri has four games left to prove its portfolio worthy of the postseason, and it's a good thing it does, because, according to Michaelis, “We want more now.”