OKLAHOMA CITY — It looked like the team Missouri women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein envisioned she would have at the beginning of the season.
All season long the Tigers have garnered compliments from opposing coaches for their effort. But so many times the Tigers have become flustered whenever an opposing team mounted any sort of considerable run.
But with 1:37 remaining in Missouri’s first-round Big 12 Conference tournament game against No. 23-ranked Texas, it looked like things were going to be different. The Tigers led 59-52 and had answered every Longhorns’ run. Missouri’s fans, with the taste of an opening round upset in their mouths, were partaking in what seemed to be a celebratory “M-I-Z-Z-O-U” chant.
But only three seconds later the same fans were silent and the Tigers and Longhorns were somehow tied at 59. Redshirt freshman Bekah Mills and junior Jessra Johnson committed three turnovers off in-bounds passes which enabled Texas to rattle off seven consecutive points and tie the game. Seconds later, Texas junior Brittainey Raven scored on a layup to give the Longhorns the lead and put them into the quarterfinals of the tournament with a 62-59 victory.
With her team down seven points going into the final timeout, Texas coach Gail Goestenkors said there was no doubt about the message she was going to send to her team.
“I said we’re going to win this game,” Goestenkors said. “There is plenty of time, don’t panic, don’t throw up bad shots.”
Stein seemed to struggle to find the words to describe what had transpired in the final minutes of the game. She said her team remained calm despite the chaotic finish.
“There’s not a lot to say,” Stein said. “It’s tough. Obviously…it’s tough. They knew how many timeouts we had. They knew we needed spacing. They knew we just needed to get the ball in. It’s tough.”
Stein said it came down to which team had more players capable of making big plays with the game on the line. Texas had three players score and make steals in the final 1:35. Missouri didn’t score a single point in the final 4:39.
“I think our kids deserved more than what we got,” Stein said. “But at the same time, we reflected a little bit on what we’ve got to take from this game for next year.”
“It comes to the point where you’ve got to make plays and unfortunately we were unable to come up with them,” Stein said.
The Tigers were led by their lone senior, Alyssa Hollins, who scored a team-high 16 points and made four of her five 3-point attempts. But Hollins’ final shot, a potential game-tying jumper from the corner with only seconds remaining, bounced off the rim and into the hands of a Longhorns defender ending the Tigers’ season.
A dejected Hollins admitted her disappointment after the game as she fought back tears.
“This isn’t how I would write it in my book, you know?” Hollins said.
But after pausing briefly Hollins reflected on the past four years and couldn’t think of a single complaint.
“I don’t think you could ask for much more out of a group of girls,” she said. “It’s one of the best experiences of my life, and even this, like, I look back on this and it’s a blessing.”
The Tigers finish the season 13-17. Texas improves to 21-10 and will play Iowa State in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday.