COLUMBIA — In the end, the game was decided by free throws.
After leading for a majority of the game, the Missouri women’s basketball team couldn’t hold on against Northwestern. The Tigers lost their first game of the season 74-70 to the Wildcats in the second annual Big 12/Big Ten Challenge game Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
Although the Tigers (5-1) rallied multiple times throughout the game, the team couldn’t keep the momentum going.
Midway through the first half, junior guard Liene Priede swished a 3-point shot to give the Tigers a four-point lead. Not long after, 5-foot-7 freshman guard Kyley Simmons peeked around the side of a much taller Northwestern player and sent a bounce pass to senior center BreAnna Brock who sent in a jumper near the basket to put Missouri up 22-16. Brock finished the game with 23 points to lead the Tigers.
But Northwestern slowly chipped away at Missouri’s lead, and at halftime, the Tigers led by only a point. At the end of the second half, it was the Tigers who were trying to reduce Northwestern’s lead.
With two and a half minutes left in the game, Northwestern (6-1) took the lead, 62-61. The Tigers fouled and sent Northwestern junior Dannielle Diamant to the line, and she made both free throws. The Tigers responded when Simmons sent a bounce pass to Brock, who dribbled around a Northwestern player for a layup. Diamant went to the line four more times, making every single free throw. The Tigers answered those shots with a layup from Brock and a 3-pointer from Simmons, but the final push wasn’t enough to give the Tigers a win.
“It’s a game of runs, and they ended up with the last run. We came up short today,” head coach Robin Pingeton said. “I thought we looked awfully good, but just the breakdown is unacceptable.”
Pingeton said her team got tired in the second half and quit on some possessions, which it couldn’t afford to do.
After the game, senior forward Christine Flores and Priede were both misty-eyed.
“It just comes down to the little things. Losing your player, having two people on the ball not talking,” Flores said. “We lost it there for a minute, and it cost us the game.”
Flores, who scored 20 points for the Tigers, said the team will watch tape to see the mistakes they made and what they can improve, but after midnight, the team won’t dwell on the loss.
“When I look at where we’re at right now compared to a year ago, I’m proud of our girls," Pingeton said. "Satisfied? Absolutely not, but I’m definitely proud of them.”