COLUMBIA — It was the last thing the Missouri women’s basketball team wanted to see.
About 8 minutes into the game, the Tigers were leading 12-2 when junior forward Christine Flores got tangled up with Ball State senior Emily Maggert under the basket. Flores was leading the Tigers with six points and four rebounds but had to leave the game with an ankle injury.
Later in the half, however, Flores returned, and the Tigers won 56-45 on Wednesday in Muncie, Ind. With starting point guard Bekah Mills out for the season with an ACL tear, a serious injury to Flores would have been devastating for the already short-handed Tigers. Although her mobility was limited by her injury, Flores still lead the team with 13 points. She also had eight rebounds.
The Tigers started the game with a bang. When senior RaeShara Brown missed a three-point attempt, stole the rebound from a Ball State player and dished to Flores for an easy layup, the Tigers took a 10-0 lead less than 5 minutes into the game. But when Flores left the game, the Cardinals began to chip away at Missouri’s lead, pulling within three points at one point. The Tigers carried a 25-19 lead into halftime.
Ball State got hot from beyond the arc in the second half and was able to keep the game close. After shooting 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half, the Cardinals hit 5 of 10 to start the second half.
Missouri held a 45-40 lead with 7:29 left in the game when the Tigers started to play the uptempo style head coach Robin Pingeton has wanted to see all year. Brown started pushing the ball up the floor, leading to easy baskets for the Tigers that sparked an 11-0 run over the next five minutes to put the game out of reach.
“I just thought in the second half we played with a greater sense of urgency,” coach Robin Pingeton said in a postgame radio interview. “I felt like Sydney* (Crafton) was a warrior out there for us.”
Crafton, a sophomore, started her third game in a row after Mills' injury. She had eight points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, providing some much needed production.
Uncharacteristically, Missouri got balanced scoring from the starting five. In addition to Flores’ and Crafton’s totals, Brown scored 12, senior Shakara Jones added 10 and senior Jasmyn Otote had nine. Otote and Jones each matched Crafton’s nine rebounds. All 11 players on the Tigers’ active roster saw playing time, but the bench scored just four points.
Ball State senior Ty’Ronda Benning shot 4 for 8 from 3-point range and led the Cardinals with 17 points, but the Cardinals shot 28 percent from the field and were outrebounded 45-36.
Coming into the game, Missouri was giving up nearly 22 turnovers per game, but it had just 15 on Wednesday. Despite seeing her team take care of the ball better and improve in other areas, Pingeton said the team still has a lot of work to do.
“I’m looking forward to some practice time,” Pingeton said. “Unfortunately, we’re not going to get much. We’re going to have a day off and practice and head up to Northwestern.”
The Tigers play at 1 p.m. Sunday at Northwestern.