COLUMBIA — Robin Pingeton was all smiles Tuesday night when she walked from the locker room to Norm Stewart court before her first exhibition game as the head coach of the Missouri women’s basketball team.
She waved to the children lined up to greet the team and shook the hands of Missouri Western’s coaches before taking her seat on the sideline, where she received a pat on the back from an enthusiastic Tigers fan.
Her smile disappeared quickly when Missouri Western scored the first two points of the game, and it didn’t return for the rest of the first half. After 20 minutes of basketball marked by 13 Missouri turnovers and a 26 percent field goal percentage, Pingeton walked into the locker room at halftime with her head down. The Tigers were trailing 32-26.
The Tigers came out with more intensity in the second half, but Missouri Western stayed competitive throughout the game. Pingeton looked relieved when the horn finally sounded and the Tigers escaped with a 67-60 win.
Pingeton was emotional just before getting the chance to coach the Tigers for the first time.
“I had a lot of thoughts go through my mind before the game,” Pingeton said. “To be honest, I was just happy and proud to be here. These girls, it’s crazy how quickly they become near and dear to your heart. As a staff, we want this more for them than anything else. To see the growth that I’ve seen in the last seven months has been priceless.”
Despite the team’s struggles early in the game, Pingeton showed no signs of panic. Having a familiar coaching staff on the sideline gave her a sense of comfort.
“When you’ve been in the trenches before,” Pingeton said. “and we absolutely were in the trenches at Illinois State, and being surrounded by loyal people that have the same mindset, the same philosophy, I absolutely think it’s extremely valuable.”
But that comfort level didn’t stop her from pacing up and down the sidelines and constantly alternating between sitting down and standing up. Her intensity level was high throughout the game. She was constantly shouting instructions and encouraging her players. It’s the same intensity the players have seen in practice.
“She (Pingeton) is going to treat us the same in practice as she does in games,” said junior Christine Flores, who led Missouri with 25 points. “Of course the games are more intense, so you’re going to get those more intense moments a little more than in practice.”
Despite getting a win in her MU coaching debut, Pingeton was concerned about how her team played. She grabbed a microphone after the game and addressed the crowd. She thanked them for showing up to support the team, but admitted that they still have a lot of work to do. She definitely isn’t going to take time to celebrate the win.
“We’ve got to come back to practice tomorrow, roll up our sleeves and go back to work,” Pingeton said after the game. “We’ve got a lot of things that are correctable and some things that we’ve got to find a way to make them correctable.”