COLUMBIA — The story of the game was supposed to be freshman phenom Brittney Griner.
Griner, a 6-foot-8 standout for Baylor, is the most talked about player in women’s basketball this season. Her highlight-reel dunks are regularly shown on ESPN, and she has blocked 107 shots this season, a Baylor school record.
But for at least one day, Jasmyn Otote and her Tigers teammates stole the spotlight away from Griner.
Otote, a Missouri junior, led the Tigers to a 70-62 win over No. 10 Baylor on Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak and gives the Tigers their first Big 12 win. Missouri was the only team in the Big 12 without a conference win.
“It feels good to get one. There’s not enough words to express that,” elated Missouri coach Cindy Stein said.
After the game, the cheers of the Tigers players inside their locker room rang through the nearby Mizzou Arena press room.
“I’m very excited right now. It feels like we just won a championship,” senior Jessra Johnson said.
Wednesday’s game began in predictable fashion. Baylor (14-4, 1-3) ran out to an 11-0 lead, while Griner’s presence appeared to affect the Tigers (11-7, 1-4) on both ends of the floor. Griner’s staggering size made Tiger junior Shakara Jones look like she was guarding a giant. However, just four minutes into the half, Griner picked up her second foul causing Baylor coach Kim Mulkey to sit her for the rest of the half.
“We got off to a great start and picked up two tic-tac fouls and never got back in the rhythm,” Mulkey said.
Once Griner exited to the bench, the Tigers suddenly looked like a different team. They couldn’t miss. Otote, who averages 3.2 points a game, hit four 3-pointers in the half. Her fourth 3-pointer gave the Tigers their first lead of the game 26-24. Missouri led 31-30 at the break
“Those 3’s in the first half, I mean, that really lifted us up,” Stein said. “I really liked her (Otote's) confidence.”
Even with Griner back on the floor in the second half, the Tigers confidence continued to grow. Instead of altering their shots on the inside, the Tigers continued to attack Griner. Shots weren’t being blocked. For the Tigers, they kept falling. Griner had two blocks in the game.
“Well, in the post, coach Stein stressed don’t change your shot. In her terms, she doesn’t care if we get blocked, as long as we get the rebound,” Johnson said. “But, personally, you care if you get blocked. You just got to keep going hard and attack the basket.”
For much of the second half, the Tigers had control of the game. But with just more than four minutes left, Baylor pulled within 61-60. So far this season, the Tigers have not done well late in games. But Stein said losing another tough game did not enter her mind.
“There are people that always think worst-case scenario and I’m just not one of them,” Stein said. “I’m always best-case scenario”
Johnson led the Tigers with 19 points, while Otote scored 12. Griner finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
The victory is the first for the Tigers over a top-10 team since 2006, which was also against Baylor. The Tigers play next at 7 p.m. Tuesday at No. 12 Oklahoma State.
Undoubtedly, the victory should give the Tigers some confidence and could prove to be a turning point in the season.
“It depends on what we do next game,” Stein said. “Obviously, you want it to be a turning point, but we’ve got to be very determined.”