COUMBIA — Sophomore Trenee Thornton played 29 minutes Saturday in the Missouri women's basketball team's victory over Texas. That is more than she played all of last season. An immediate chemistry with senior guard RaeShara Brown gave Thornton success, which won over Missouri coach Robin Pingeton.
"I think she takes a little bit of pressure off Rae. She can move to that point guard position," Pingeton said after the game against Texas. "It just takes a lot of wear and tare on the body, and I think she takes some of that off Rae, which is key for us.”
Missouri Tigers (9-6, 1-0)
at Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-1, 1-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: United Spirit Arena, Lubbock, Texas
RADIO: KTGR/100.5 FM, 1580 AM
Last season, Missouri defeated Texas Tech 58-55 in overtime. After building a 32-22 lead with 15 minutes left in regulation, the Tigers let the Red Raiders back into the game, and the score at the end of the second half was tied at 47. But Missouri held on thanks to an eight-point run to start overtime.
Thornton took on the task of directing Missouri's offense through the game, cutting back and forth and dribbling behind the back to avoid Texas' full-court press. With the ball in Thornton's hand, Brown found openings in the Texas defense to get open for shots. Pingeton expects to use the guard combination as long as the success is there.
"I would like to believe we can, and if Trenee continues to come to practice with that same kind of mindset and gives us that same kind of effort, absolutely," Pingeton said. "We need to have that rotation to have a chance to have success in the Big 12."
Brown reaped the benefits of having Thornton attract multiple Longhorn defenders when the Tigers were on offense. The senior scored a career-high 27 points.
“I think Trenee played with outstanding emotion tonight. To see that in her, it makes you feel just all heated inside," Brown said after the Texas game.
"When you look at your teammate and see the fire in her eyes, it does come into you. Even with me, as the type of player I am, everybody knows I play with my emotions. But for me to see Trenee like that took it to a whole other level.”
Thornton only saw playing time in five games in her first year at Missouri, scoring three points total. This season, the sophomore has come off the bench in 13 games to score 13 points and dish out nine assists. She added three steals and two rebounds to her stats in the victory over Texas. Pingeton credits this improvement to Thornton's ability to balance poise with emotion.
“I just go hard in practice, and I try to take everything in," Thornton said. "Everything I hear, I suck it up and put it to use out there on the court.”
Thornton's hard work in practice leading up to her breakout game against Texas began in the second grade, when she got her first opportunity to play basketball.
"I used to go up to the Boys and Girls Club when I was little, and I was shy and quiet. The man that used to run the Boys and Girls Club asked me to play basketball. I said 'no,' but they told me to try it, and ever since then, it stuck with me," Thornton said.
Her decision to play basketball came with her family's full support. They watched her grow into a McDonald's All-American nominee her senior season at Central High School in Kansas City.
"Every decision, they’re behind me one hundred percent," Thornton said.
The family played a role in Thornton's decision to attend MU. Because they live in Kansas City, her family is able to make the drive down highway 70 to nearly every Tiger home game.
Thornton learned from her family to recognize the significance of defeating strong opponents like Texas, while at the same time concentrating on the task at hand.
"It’s big. We haven’t beaten them in ten years, the second time in school history," Thornton said. "So this is a big win for us. Now we just have to focus on the next team."