COLUMBIA — The Missouri women's basketball team narrowly avoided an upset in their preseason opener against Missouri Western State on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena, but came away with at 67-60 victory in the exhibition.
"I'm not one to make excuses," new Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton said. "Our play has got to get better. We have a lot of work to do."
The Tigers trailed 32-26 at halftime and stayed behind until Tigers junior Christine Flores sank a layup with just more than seven minutes left in the game. Flores led the team with 25 points, a result of what Pingeton called a strong effort. At one point in the second half, Flores found herself diving into the scorer's table for a loose ball.
"What really stood out to me was her effort, really laying it out there for her team, and that's the way we're going to play," Pingeton said. "For a 6-5, 6-6 kid to give up her body that way, I love how hard she was playing on the court."
But the rest of the team's shooting did not match Flores', who was 10-for-19 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
"I'm just glad it's an exhibition, and we decided to get all of our bricks out of the way," senior RaeShara Brown said.
Pingeton said she thought the Tigers' poor shooting might have been caused by her players trying to hard.
"Sometimes you start pressing a little bit because you want it so bad, and I think that was part of our problem offensively tonight," Pingeton said.
Missouri Western was on target most of the night, especially from beyond the arc. Senior Lauren Nolke, who attended Hickman High School, led the Griffons with four 3-point baskets on six attempts.
However, Missouri Western was unable to give coach Lynn Plett his first win against a Division I school in his four years with the Griffons.
Instead, freshman Paige Spietz earned her first win as a Tiger, playing 13 minutes off the bench and adding a crucial seven points. Pingeton said she wanted to give Spietz playing time as a reward for her hard work this preseason.
"(Spietz has) been one of the gals that's been getting into the gym outside of practice," Pingeton said. "When you do those extra things, you feel like you almost deserve to be successful."
Spietz said that entering the game was nerve-racking, but that she felt more comfortable by the second half. She will look for more playing time Sunday when the Tigers host Oklahoma City in their second and final exhibition game.