COLUMBIA — Christine Flores eventually realized it couldn't happen any other way. As the most experienced player on the Missouri women's basketball team, Flores, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, knew she would have to be the one to make it happen.
"It was kind of a personal game, I'm not going to lie," Flores said.
North Dakota (5-3)
at Missouri (6-1)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ/98.7 FM
Flores scored 12 points in row for the Tigers with fewer than four minutes left in the second half to almost single-handedly give Missouri a 56-54 victory against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena. Flores finished the game with a triple-double, scoring 25 points, collecting 14 rebounds and blocking 10 shots.
"You expect that out of a player that's your most experienced player, and she's a senior," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "You expect your seniors to take over a game when things aren't going quite our way, especially as our most veteran player."
Things had not gone Missouri's way in the first half.
The Tigers trailed 34-23 at the break after hitting only seven of 25 shots. Junior guard Liene Priede, who finished the game with 11 points and seven rebounds, was 1-for 6 in the first half, and the Panthers had scored eight points off 10 Missouri turnovers.
The frustration showed when Pingeton received a technical foul arguing a call with 1:27 left in the first half. Flores admitted nobody was happy about the situation by the time the team got into the locker room.
"It was intense. We know we are a better team than that," Flores said. "We knew we weren't playing the way we wanted to play, and that we could pick it up. I think you all saw that in the second half. We came together a lot more, but it was very intense in the locker room."
Pingeton had been worried from the start.
"I was a little concerned going into this game that we might have a little hangover from our Northwestern game," said Pingeton about the Tigers disappointing 74-70 defeat Saturday to the visiting Wildcats. "But I think we're getting tougher and we definitely need to. That's a positive."
In the second half, Missouri, which improved to 6-1 with the victory, found a way to make thing work with Flores' help. The Tigers erased a 15-point deficit with Flores sinking a pair of free throws to put Missouri ahead 52-51 with 1:57 left to play. She put in a jump shot for a 54-52 lead with 52 seconds left, but two free throws from Eastern Illinois' Chantelle Pressley tied it again.
With less than 20 seconds remaining in the game, both Missouri and Eastern Illinois knew Flores was going to take the final shot for the Tigers. Flores received a pass down low and was fouled on an attempted layup.
With 16 seconds left, Flores, who went 11-for-12 from the line, made both of her free throws.
In the end, Flores' sure-handed play down the stretch had won it. She said she knew she could do it, but maybe she wasn't as sure as it seemed.
"I got a triple double? Well I just found out, so that was my reaction," she said. "Yeah, I think that may be my first in college. That's huge, I'm just excited about it. I don't really have any words. I'm in disbelief kind of, I know that I am capable of doing that. But, I'm kind of speechless right now, just finding out."