COLUMBIA — Above the sound of the small crowd's cheers, the voice of the public address announcer and the cheerleaders on the sideline, players on the Kansas State bench could be heard counting down the shot clock time and again Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena.
The No. 16 ranked team in women's college basketball was struggling to get the ball to touch the rim, let alone sail through it.
For a stretch of 16 minutes, 9 seconds spanning both halves, Missouri did not allow the Wildcats to score a field goal, often blocking shots from both beyond the 3-point line and beneath the basket as the shot clock wound down.
“Honestly, we wanted to play more physical," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "We wanted to get up in their grill a little bit more, we wanted better ball pressure and we wanted to bump cuts."
The Tigers finished with 11 blocks and ran away with a 52-43 win.
“This was a game in which I thought Missouri played very aggressive on the defensive end of the floor and really asserted their will, basically on both ends over the course of 40 minutes," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "I don’t know that there was any phase of the game, short of maybe the first four minutes of the game, where Missouri didn’t dominate every aspect of every possession.”
Missouri fell behind 8-0 to begin the game but after a timeout, the Tigers never allowed lead to grow as they began their comeback.
“We never really have great starts, so that’s just something that’s kind of normal with us, I think," Stein said. "I think it’s just a matter of gathering ourselves back."
Jessra Johnson seemed inspired by a return to the starting lineup on Wednesday. The junior forward had 17 points to go along with nine rebounds and six blocks.
“Jessra’s got the playing time because she’s playing defense," Stein said. "I’m not sure that I’m asking her to block shots defensively, but the thing I liked about Jessra is what she’s been doing in practice is she’s getting up and guarding people, and she was doing that today.”
Missouri took the lead for the first time with 5:20 left in the first half and never trailed again. A combination of the Tigers' stifling defense and Kansas State's shooting struggles equaled an ugly offensive performance from the Wildcats.
Kansas State went 16-of-52 from the field and made a 3-pointer with 54.6 seconds to go to finish 1-for-18 from 3-point range.
“This is a big deal for us because we finally turned that corner," said MU senior Alyssa Hollins. "We go into each game believing we can win and we finally did what we need to do to take care of it tonight.”
The win was the second consecutive home conference win for Missouri (12-12, 3-8 in the Big 12), which will travel to Nebraska on Saturday to face the Cornhuskers, a team it has already beaten this season.