MU women's basketball rallies past Northwestern

Sunday, November 30, 2008 | 6:33 p.m. CST; updated 7:03 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barely 24 hours after the Missouri women’s basketball team dropped a heartbreaking triple-overtime game to Holy Cross, it found itself trailing Northwestern University 59-48 with 8:17 left to play Sunday in the final game of the Mildred and Roger L. White Invitational in Evanston, Ill..

But the Tigers closed the game with a 21-4 run to escape with their second victory of the season. Missouri coach Cindy Stein was quick to credit her second unit for a second-half spark.

“We had some great play off the bench,” Stein said by phone. “Just a lot of kids brining a lot of energy and getting stops.”
The Tigers received 18 points from its bench, including eight from sophomore guard Jasmyn Otote. Missouri's scoring was also much more balanced than it has been in most of its games this season. Rather than relying on one or two players, Missouri had production from the top of its lineup to the bottom with nine players scoring and five of them scoring at least eight points.

Stein said her team’s ability to bounce back only a day after such a difficult defeat was a good example of her team’s resiliency.

“This team just has a great heart,” Stein said. “And that’s what I’ve appreciated in coaching them to begin with. I don’t feel like they’re giving up and we’re going to keep battling.”

The Tigers got off to a good start by hitting nine of their first 14 shots. A layup by sophomore forward Shakara Jones put the Tigers on top 22-15 with 10:17 left in the first half. But Missouri missed eight of its next 12 shots and turned the ball over five times to close out the half. The Wildcats (2-4) took advantage of that drought and took a 36-31 lead into halftime.

Things didn’t get much better for Missouri during the first 12 minutes of the second half. Northwestern had a 59-48 lead when Northwestern coach Joe McKeown decided to take a 30-second timeout with 8:17 left to play. The Tigers outscored Northwestern 21-4 the rest of the way to escape with a 69-63 victory.

Junior forward Jessra Johnson hit a free throw with 2:52 left that put the Tigers on top for the first time since they led 22-21 at the 8:46 mark in the first half.

Northwestern had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute, but Johnson came up with a steal with 15 seconds left that sealed the victory for the Tigers.

After the Tigers’ loss to Holy Cross on Saturday, Stein said her team played not to lose. But she didn’t think that was the case Sunday night and she cited the final minute as an example.

“We were able to come up with some stops,” Stein said. “The difference is we were going after the stops instead of trying just to contain somebody and hope they didn’t score.”
Johnson led Missouri with 19 points and nine rebounds but went 2-of-9 from the free-throw line. Johnson wasn’t the only Tigers player to struggle from the line. As a team, the Tigers went 7-of-15 from the free-throw line but was perfect when it mattered the most. Junior guard Toy Richbow hit two free throws with 15 seconds left that pushed the Tigers’ lead to 67-63. Senior guard Alyssa Hollins added two more with three seconds left to put Missouri up 69-63 and clinch the Tigers second victory of the season.

The win improves the Tigers’ record to 2-4. Missouri's next game is on Wednesday against Toledo at Mizzou Arena.

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