Full court press helps Missouri women's basketball win final home game of season

Saturday, March 5, 2011 | 10:36 p.m. CST; updated 11:23 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 5, 2011
MU women's basketball players Shakara Jones, Bailey Gee and Christine Flores leap for control of the ball along with Iowa State's Kelsey Harris and others on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — Jasmyn Otote clung to the back of BreAnna Brock and wrapped her legs around Brock’s hips for a piggyback ride. Otote and Brock were at half court with the rest of the Missouri women’s basketball team as it celebrated a win in its final home game of the season.

Otote was the star of the moment. She had only scored six points in the game, but the game wasn’t about offense. When Iowa State’s Kelsey Harris received the inbounds pass with five seconds to play, Otote was right on her. Harris had no choice but to put up a shot with Otote’s hand in her face. The shot was short.

When the buzzer sounded one second after the miss, bedlam ensued as the Tigers' bench players met the players on the floor at half court. The Tigers had held on to win 49-48 on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

Because of a lack of depth, the Tigers have not been able to use a full-court press for much of the season. But on Saturday, coach Robin Pingeton saw an opportunity. Iowa State only went eight deep, just like Missouri.

Missouri ended up using some kind of full-court press the entire game, but it was usually one meant to simply disrupt the Cyclones' offense.

“It’s not an overly aggressive pressure defense,” said Pingeton, who had used the press with some success in the Tigers' 71-59 loss in Ames on Jan. 29. “Even if it was five to eight to 10 seconds off the shot clock, that would really help cause they’re so good offensively in the half court. We felt like if we could do it without fouling, it would certainly be to our benefit.”

Whether it was intended to or not, the press also caused some turnovers. When the opportunity presented itself, the Tigers would trap the ball handler near the sideline and go for a steal. The Cyclones finished with 20 turnovers.

Although the Tigers don’t typically press, the Cyclones were expecting it.

“It didn’t look like it, but we practiced it for two days,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I thought we were real passive against it instead of attacking it, which led to some late shot clock situations.”

“One mistake led to another, and we were in a bad place,” Cyclones guard Jessica Schroll said.

It was the energy shown by all the Tigers players that led to the success on defense. During one loose ball late in the first half, three Tigers ended up on the floor in the scramble to get it. The result was a jump ball with the possession arrow favoring Missouri. When the media timeout came, Pingeton walked all the way to half court to lead the line of bench players ready to high five the players for their effort.

The press worked well all game, but with 22 seconds left, Missouri led by one and the Cyclones had the ball when Pingeton switched things up. It was one of the few times all game she didn’t have her players apply full-court pressure.

“I just wanted to get matched up on the back end,” Pingeton said. “On a couple of possessions, we weren’t talking and getting matched back up appropriately. We wanted to make sure we got set in our defense.”

It worked. Iowa State passed the ball into Chelsea Poppens in the post. She shuffled her feet and traveled.

The Cyclones then fouled RaeShara Brown, who missed the front end of a one-and-one with nine seconds left. But Brown’s defense made up for the miss.

When Anna Prins got the rebound and passed it to Lauren Mansfield, Brown got right up on her. She forced her to turn around and call a timeout near half court with five seconds to play.

Fennelly drew up a play the Cyclones have worked on all year, but they didn’t execute it.

“Kelsey Harris, she was supposed to stand in the corner,” Fennelly said. “For some reason, she ran out of the corner and caught the ball. I don’t know what she was thinking.”

Although it wasn’t what the Cyclones had intended, Harris caught the ball just a few feet beyond the arc in a position to score. Otote’s defense was just too much.

“We really challenged our kids to get in a stance and contain with getting a hand in the shooting pocket — biggest four and a half seconds of their career,” Pingeton said.

With the win, the Tigers improve to 13-17 overall and 5-11 in the Big 12 Conference. They will be the 10th seed in the conference tournament, which starts Tuesday.

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