COLUMBIA — Whenever Nebraska coach Connie Yori tells her players the scouting report on the Missouri women’s basketball team, she always says RaeShara Brown is one of her favorite players in the conference.
After Brown sank a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 71-64 lead with 49 seconds left in Wednesday’s game at Mizzou Arena, Brown hopped all the way to the other end of the floor while bobbing her head up in down. She ended her celebration in front of the Nebraska bench before heading back to her own side for the timeout. Her play definitely reminded Yori why she likes Brown so much.
Brown scored 22 of her 25 points in the second half of Missouri's 76-69 victory. She came up big when the Tigers needed it most. Clinging to a 61-60 lead, Brown scored the next 12 points for the Tigers before free throws from Jasmyn Otote and Trenee Thornton sealed the win.
Brown’s big second half overshadowed the story of the first half.
Syndey Crafton had never scored more than 16 points in her Missouri career. It took her just 13 minutes of playing time in the first half to score 17 on Wednesday. And that came after a lackluster start.
“I couldn’t get her subbed out of the game fast enough at the start,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “I was really disappointed in her effort to get to the offensive boards. She knew it, too. She came back and played with more aggressiveness when we subbed her back in.”
Crafton’s play led the Tigers to a 17-point halftime lead and forced Nebraska to abandon part of its game plan.
Early on, Nebraska was in a 2-3 zone to limit the Tigers in the paint and force them to shoot from the perimeter. In theory, it was a great idea. Entering the game, Missouri was last in the Big 12 with a shooting percentage of just 28.2 percent from beyond the arc. But the Tigers hit four 3-pointers — two from Crafton — in the early going to force Nebraska to switch to a man-to-man.
“We were playing hope defense, I call it,” Yori said. “We hope they miss, and well, they made.”
Although the Tigers shot well enough from the perimeter, Pingeton didn’t want her team to have to rely on the 3-point shot against the zone.
“I thought we were a little quick to shoot the outside shot instead of trying to work it into our high-low a little more,” Pingeton said. “But it worked out for us.”
The second half started with a bang for the Cornhuskers. They quickly got back into the game in the second half with some hot shooting. They made 6-of-8 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the half to cut the deficit to five points.
The second half turned into a two-person show: Brown versus Nebraska freshman Jordan Hooper. Hooper scored 28 of her game-high 31 points and made six of her seven 3-pointers after halftime.
“She really hit some tough shots,” Brown said of Hooper. “We were trying to contest as hard as we could, but her release is so quick that we didn’t have a chance to get a hand in her face. She started knocking them down and her confidence went up and she kind of got in her own little zone.”
But in the end, it was Brown who helped the Tigers earn a win.
“You want the ball at those times,” Brown said. “I was just looking to make the next best play for my team. It just so happened that the basket seemed to be open for me.”
Although Crafton had just two points in the second half, her first-half performance helped get Brown going.
“With Sydney having such a big half, that allowed me some leeway in the second half, because they really had to key in on her,” Brown said. “They couldn’t help off of her.”
The Tigers improve to 11-11 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska falls to 12-9 overall and 2-5 in conference.