Bri Kulas is Missouri's 7th all-time draft pick.
April 25, 2014
by: RJ Layton
The Mizzou Women's Basketball program continues to lay the foundation for success under head coach Robin Pingeton. The 2013-2014 campaign saw the Tigers clinch their second consecutive winning season and postseason berth in the WNIT. In its second year in the Southeastern Conference, Missouri set numerous records and received major contributions from a sterling freshman class.
The Tigers were uncanny from beyond the arc and used the three-pointer as an effective offensive weapon throughout the season. Pingeton's squad buried 292 treys, breaking the Mizzou and SEC record for three-point field goals made in a season for the second year in a row. Shooting guard Morgan Eye led the charge from deep. The junior sharpshooter made 108 threes, which was the fifth best output from long range in the entire country. Eye surpassed 1,000 career points in a senior night victory over Ole Miss. With 1,041 total points through three years in Columbia, Eye is just the sixth Tiger to reach that mark since 2007.
Fellow teammate Bri Kulas also made the most of her final season at Mizzou. The senior forward averaged 18.3 points per game, good for second in the SEC. She shot a blistering 43.5-percent from the field and 83 percent from the free throw line. Kulas was named to the All-SEC First Team in a loaded conference that sent eight teams to the NCAA tournament. In her final regular season home game, Kulas surpassed 1,000 points in only two seasons at Mizzou. Her efforts didn't go unrecognized as she became just the seventh Tiger all-time to be selected in the WNBA draft. Kulas was chosen by the San Antonio Stars in the third round.
Despite her departure, Kulas significant impact' on the program will continue to show through the talented freshman class she helped groom throughout the season. The trio of newcomers, Jordan Frericks, Kayla McDowell and Sierra Michaelis, is arguably considered Missouri's best freshman group since the 1996-97 season. Frericks, McDowell and Michaelis averaged 17.9 points per game on 44.4-percent shooting. The trio also ripped down 13.5 rebounds per outing and dished 2.6 assists per game. All three found their way into the starting lineup.
Frericks, a 6-foot-1 forward, recorded five double-doubles and posted a career-high 18 points in the season finale. McDowell started her career off with a bang, tossing in 19 points and grabbing 10 boards in the season opener. She snatched five or more rebounds in 12 games and averaged 6.5 points, playing a crucial role in the rotation. With a year under their belt, Frericks and McDowell will anchor the post for Mizzou in seasons to come. Fellow freshman Sierra Michaelis showed flashes of excellence, especially down the stretch when she averaged 26.5 minutes in the final six games of the year. The former Miss Show-Me Basketball had a breakout performance, notching 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead Mizzou to an upset road win over Florida. The young trio has the 2014-2015 squad already stocked with plenty of experience and poised to build upon a solid foundation.
Mizzou started the 2013-14 season off on a high note, rattling off seven wins in a row. After a dominant road win over Saint Louis to begin the campaign, the Tigers defended their own home court and outscored the next three opponents (SIUE, Evansville and SEMO) by an average of 17 points. With momentum on its side, Pingeton's squad headed to UT Martin for a tough road matchup. The Tigers erased a 19-point deficit and completed a furious comeback for a 77-74 win. Eye led the way with 27 points behind nine treys and Frericks iced the game with a timely bucket down the stretch to edge her team in front.
After another impressive victory over UMKC, Mizzou traveled to the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament. The Tigers clinched their seventh victory in a row, defeating Hartford 68-45. Kulas poured in 27 points and Frericks added 13 points and eight rebounds in the blowout. Mizzou suffered its first loss of the season to tournament host Miami (74-68), despite Eye knocking down nine three-pointers for the second time in eight games.
The squad bounced back emphatically, however, in a 126-55 rout of Bradley. The 126 points set a new school record for a single game, as did Mizzou's 65 first-half points in the contest. Mizzou made 16 of its first 18 field goals and had a 30-point lead less than 10 minutes in. Sophomore Morgan Stock nailed seven 3-pointers in the contest and notched a career-high 21 points.
Mizzou won its seventh straight game at home as the Tigers saw four players score in double figures and cruised past Belmont, 82-70. The Tigers fell to Missouri State in the following game. Michaelis had a breakout performance though, tallying 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Mizzou wrapped up non-conference play with an easy 15-point win over Western Illinois just before the holiday break.
The Tigers opened up SEC action in style as the road warriors ousted the Ole Miss Rebels, 85-76, in Oxford, Miss. Efficiency from the charity stripe (14-for-16) and eight second-half treys gave Mizzou the breathing room it needed down the stretch. Kulas and Stock both put up 20-point performances to lead the way.
After dropping a home contest to Arkansas, Mizzou responded and knocked off No. 25 Georgia to earn its first win over a ranked opponent in 2013-14. Eye broke the school's all-time record for three-pointers made en route to a 66-55 victory. The sharpshooter seized momentum for the Tigers, burying her 227th career trey. Kulas chipped in a game-high 24 points and Mizzou's suffocating defense, which limited Georgia to just 22.2-percent shooting from the field, proved to be too much for the Bulldogs.
Missouri fought hard against a grueling slate of competition, but the Tigers lost four games in a row, with three of the losses coming against Top 25 opponents. The schedule did not get much easier, as Mizzou returned to Columbia, Mo., to try and right the ship in a matchup with No. 16/18 Vanderbilt. Pingeton's team did just that, edging the Commodores 59-54 in an intense, back-and-forth game. The Tigers held All-SEC first team member Christina Foggie to 10 points and McDowell countered with 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench in the win.
Following two more losses to ranked opponents, the Tigers fell in a heartbreaker to Alabama. Mizzou got back to its winning ways with back-to-back victories. First, MU traveled south to take on the Auburn Tigers. Pingeton's squad was ready from the tip, and put together a near perfect first half. Missouri shot a sizzling 48-percent from the field and took a 42-14 advantage into the halftime break. Auburn tried to claw back, but six threes and 21 points from Eye prevented a comeback.
Mizzou continued its road success by downing Florida, 81-76. Michaelis earned the start and seized the opportunity, posting a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. It was her first double-double of the season. Kulas and Eye added 20 points and 19 points respectively. After trailing for most of the game, a Michaelis free throw pulled the Tigers ahead. Stingy defense and clutch plays from Kulas in the final minutes allowed Mizzou to hold off the Gators.
The Tigers returned home to face yet another ranked opponent, the No. 10 Tennessee Lady Volunteers. The high profile matchup drew a crowd of 5,017, which marks the seventh highest attendance for a home game in school history. Mizzou fell 56-50, but not without a fight. Kulas led with a team-high 22 points and added six rebounds. The Tigers trailed by as many as 16, but they showed resiliency and closed the gap to just three with a minute to play before Tennessee iced the game with free throws.
Mizzou wrapped up its home slate on senior night against Ole Miss. Seniors Kulas and Tania Jackson were honored before their final game at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers used a 13-2 run to pull away in the second half, and freshman Lindsey Cunningham provided a crucial spark off the bench, scoring a career-high nine points. A huge defensive stop on the final possession gave Missouri a 75-72 win on a special night for the program.
The Tigers finished regular season play with a tough two-point loss to Arkansas. Mizzou then traveled to the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga., where it drew Mississippi State in first round action. Kulas tallied her sixth double-double of the year with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Michaelis added 16 points, but it wasn't enough as the Bulldogs prevailed, 73-70.
Despite the loss, Missouri earned another trip to the WNIT, marking back-to-back postseason appearances. The Tigers were pitted against Creighton in the opening round and suffered a hard-fought defeat that ended the 2013-14 season for Pingeton and her improving program.
In its second year in the SEC, Mizzou knocked off two ranked opponents and won 17 games, matching last year's total. With a nucleus of three outstanding sophomores to be in Michaelis, McDowell and Frericks, and the senior leadership of Eye, the Tigers will look to continue building upon the foundation that's been solidified since Pingeton arrived in 2010.
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