COLUMBIA — There was a noticeable buzz Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. The fans showed up in droves, many carrying poster board signs. The seats in the press box were nearly filled. They were all there to see Brittney Griner, the freshman sensation from Baylor who leads the nation in blocks and earlier in the season became the seventh woman to dunk in women’s college basketball.
“I liked the fact that I thought a lot of people came to watch her but they had Missouri shirts on,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “And that’s what I liked. If they were wearing green, I would have been disappointed. I felt like it was a great game to watch.”
And for the crowd of 2,521, which is more than double the average home attendance of 1,219, the Tigers were the story, upsetting No. 10 Baylor 70-62.
The fans played a major role in the victory. MIZ-ZOU chants, a rare occurrence at women’s basketball games this season, echoed across the court. Most of the fans jumped up and down, screaming and exchanging emphatic high-fives. And as the last 2:30 slowly ticked away, they stood and clapped, hoping to will their beloved Tigers to a huge victory.
“I think that anytime you have a great crowd environment, the energy that it creates is just something that always pumps your team up,” Stein said. “I just think that that’s an element that’s always great to have on your home floor.”
Leading a large majority of these chants was Connie Flores, the mother of Missouri sophomore Christine Flores. Connie and her husband Ralph Flores drove to Columbia from San Antonio for the the Big 12 Conference matchup. It’s the second time this season the couple has made the trip. By the end of Christine Flores' career, they hope to see every Big 12 team play.
Connie Flores showed up at Mizzou Arena with 14 large pink hearts, one for each player on the Missouri roster. Each heart had a player’s number scribbled on it in big, black numerals. Every time a Tiger made a great play, Connie Flores was there to stand up and wave the player’s number proudly. She was also the one holding up orange signs with “MIZZOU TIGERS” emblazoned across the front in zebra print.
“It’s the closest I could come to the Tiger print,” Connie Flores said. “I’m always doing stuff like this. I’ve been doing it since they’ve been in middle school. Making signs and spirit stuff. Just try to kick up enthusiasm for the team and to show the team that we love them and we support them.”
With her parents in the stands, Christine Flores had one of the biggest games of her career. She even outplayed the much-hyped Griner. The Baylor star finished the game with 14 points and six rebounds. Flores topped that with 15 points and nine rebounds, often giving Griner a shot fake then taking the ball right at her for a basket.
As the final seconds ran off the clock, Missouri's Jessra Johnson, who led the Tigers with 19 points, took the ball and slung it in the air. The buzzer sounded and the Missouri band erupted with “Fight Tigers," much to the relief of Johnson.
“Yeah, we get to sing the fight song,” Johnson recalled thinking as she whipped the ball into the air. “We just have so many traditions here at Mizzou that since the beginning of conference we haven’t done. There are certain things you look forward to after a win. I was just excited."