Jan. 31, 2014
By R.J. Layton, Media Relations Student Assistant
Last season, the Missouri Women's Basketball team was defeated in the first round of the 2013 SEC tournament by a gritty Vanderbilt squad. A year later, the Tigers are coming off a thrilling win over the No. 16 Commodores, their second win over a top-25 team in a three-week span.
Head coach Robin Pingeton has been challenging her program to continue `building the foundation' since her arrival in 2010. The Tigers have done just that, making improvements year in and year out. After grabbing 17 wins in 2012-2013, the current squad has already reached the 14-win mark with at least nine games remaining on the schedule and is hopeful for anther postseason berth.
The success is a result of steady progress in all facets of the game, especially shooting. As a team, the Tigers are shooting at a 42.3 percent clip from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range, improving from last season's 41.6 percent and 33.7 percent efforts.
Three-pointers have been Mizzou's most consistent weapon this year. Junior Morgan Eye has made 68 treys, which puts her at 243 for her career. The sharpshooter has already surpassed the school record for threes in a career. She needs just 150 more to claim the NCAA record (Laurie Koehn-392) with a season and a half remaining in her illustrious career.
Eye isn't the only player who is a threat from deep. After making just five threes all of last season, sophomore Morgan Stock has used her efficiency from long range to earn a starting role. Stock has drilled 43 threes thus far, including a clutch trey in the final moments of the Tigers' win over Vanderbilt. She is also cashing in from the charity stripe, knocking down 92.3 percent of her free throws. Stock has helped Missouri shoot a scorching 77 percent from the line as a team, compared to last year's 68.4 percent.
While the guards are frustrating opponents from the outside, the Tigers have imposed their will in the paint this season. With the loss of graduating seniors Sydney Crafton
and Liz Smith
, who averaged a combined 10.6 rebounds per game, Mizzou had big shoes to fill down low. Freshmen Kayla McDowell
and Jordan Frericks
have embraced the challenge thus far, pulling down 12.1 combined boards per game. Frericks leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per outing.
The immediate impact from the freshmen has taken some pressure off of do-it-all senior Bri Kulas. After an outstanding junior campaign in which she averaged 13.8 points per game, Kulas has taken the SEC by storm in her final year at Missouri. She's averaging 18.6 points per game, which is good for second in the conference. Kulas has scored 26 points or more on five different occasions, including a career-high 30-point outburst against LSU. The gaudy numbers are a product of her efficiency from the field: 47.7 percent shooting (5th best in the SEC.)
Missouri's work isn't done yet. Kulas and company have back-to-back road games against No. 7 South Carolina and No. 14 LSU coming up. With Pingeton's guidance, the Tigers have built the foundation and look to continue to improve as the season progresses.