COLUMBIA — With the score tied and the game clock running down, RaeShara Brown heaved a half-court shot.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Brown said, unable to stop herself from smiling. “I thought it was backboard, in, all the way. I had just hit a shot like that in shoot around. The exact same shot. When I released, I just knew we were going to take off running to the locker room.”
Brown was wrong. The ball hit the backboard and then the rim before falling off to the right side. She fell to the ground in disbelief.
It would’ve been the perfect ending to a tremendous comeback. Instead the Tigers had to take care of business in overtime, defeating Oklahoma State 71-65 on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.
With four minutes left in regulation, the Tigers (12-13, 4-7 Big 12 Conference) trailed by 11 points when Sydney Crafton fell to the floor after getting smacked in the face by the Cowgirls’ Heather Howard, who was pulling down a rebound. The referees talked to both coaches and called a double technical foul. The fans at Mizzou Arena, who had been quiet all game, voiced their displeasure.
It wasn’t clear why Missouri had been called for the technical, but coach Robin Pingeton obviously disagreed. However, she didn’t want to talk about it after the game.
“These officials, I absolutely know, are giving us their best effort. I respect what they do. Nobody’s perfect,” Pingeton said. “I’d rather focus on the outcome of the game and our efforts there at the end.”
After the double technical, the efforts of Missouri's senior leaders deserve most of the focus for helping the team rally and gain the needed 11 points.
Brown had two points, and Christine Flores scored the other nine in the final four minutes to tie the game at 54 with just over a minute to play.
A young Oklahoma State team seemed to panic as Missouri chipped away at its lead and the crowd got into the game. The Cowgirls turned the ball over on three straight possessions, including the final one that set up Brown's near-heroics.
The Cowgirls tried to lob the ball to forward Toni Young at the post with less than 10 seconds left, but Brown came from behind and stole the ball. Brown dribbled through light pressure and released her shot on the run from half-court as the buzzer sounded.
The miss sent the game to overtime, which was a free throw contest. Missouri shot 12-of-18 from the line in the extra frame. Oklahoma State was just 1-of-8.
Brown credited the team’s run to the players’ will and Pingeton’s passion on the sideline. At one point, the coach turned to the crowd and raised both arms, motioning for fans to get louder.
“You look to the sideline and you see the coach going to battle for us, it just lit something under me,” Brown said. “I took the team, and we rallied together and vowed that we were not going to lose this game.”
Although Missouri committed 15 first-half turnovers, it held a three-point lead late in the half before the Cowgirls went on a 6-0 run to take a 33-30 lead into halftime.
The second half started as poorly as the first half ended for the Tigers. Nothing was going right. They scored six points in the first 10 minutes of the half but let the Cowgirls build a 16-point lead. Crafton's air ball on a wide-open jump shot from the middle of the lane epitomized the way the half was going until Missouri finally got it going late.
Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke credited Missouri’s effort but put a lot of the blame on his team.
“We handed them the game,” Budke said.
Young led the Cowgirls with 22 points and 22 rebounds, but a frustrated Budke wasn’t happy with her performance.
“She was terrible,” Budke said. “Worst game she’s played in a long time. If she’s our go-to player, she’s got to be able to finish the game. She didn’t finish the game. All those stats mean nothing.”
Flores led the Tigers with 23 points, and Brown added 20. Trenee Thornton quietly scored a career-high of 10 points.
Despite Budke's comments, Pingeton gave the credit to her team for the win in a game she said was the biggest of the year so far.
“I thought this is a game they would regret for a long time if they didn’t find a way to finish it out,” Pingeton said. "They did. They worked hard for it, and I'm proud of them."