It might be time to start taking the Missouri women's basketball program seriously.
Missouri (10-3), which hasn't finished a season with a winning record since the 2006-07 season, gave undefeated No. 13 Texas Tech (14-0) a scare on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
Missouri, in its second year being led by coach Robin Pingeton, was picked to finish last in the Big 12 Conference in a preseason coaches poll. But Pingeton's team didn't look like a last place team on Saturday.
The Tigers jumped out to a 6-2 lead early in the first half and a 40-31 lead early in the second half. There were 12 lead changes and six ties over the course of the game.
Even after falling behind 66-60 with a minute to play, the Tigers still looked like they could win the game. Junior Sydney Crafton raced down the court and caught a long pass, then spun around one defender and faked a shot. Her defender jumped at the fake, and Crafton made the layup, drew a foul and made the free throw.
Missouri had a chance to tie the game on the next possession, but came up short after a missed 3-pointer by Christine Flores and missed layup by BreAnna Brock. Texas Tech won 69-63.
"Coach Pingeton is doing a great job and she's going to build this to a very high level," said Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry, who is in her sixth season with the Red Raiders. "We're just a couple years ahead of her in the journey, and it takes time."
After going 13-18 last season in Pingeton's first year, Missouri won 10 of its first 11 games this season. After the first week of Big 12 play, Missouri sits at 0-2 against conference opponents. The other loss came to undefeated No. 1 Baylor on Wednesday.
Some fans may be pleasantly surprised by the Tigers near-victory against Texas Tech on Saturday, but Pingeton was not pleased. At all.
After the game, Pingeton looked as though her team had lost by 50. She was quiet and frowning as she walked off the court. She had none of the enthusiasm that she carried before the game, when she had fist-bumped every official at the scorer's table on her way to the bench.
Her frustration stemmed from the fact that she thought her team did not carry its intensity for a full 40 minutes.
"Its unacceptable," she said. "Its absolutely unacceptable."
She said that her team did not play with the "eye of the tiger" throughout the game.
"We had an opportunity to do something today that hasn't been done in a while," Pingeton said. "We came close, but we didn't get it done. At some point, you got to fight the battle of getting out of that mentality that close is good enough or pretty good. We don't want to be pretty good or close, we want to finish what we started."
She added the team will continue to rely on senior leadership from Flores and Brock.
Crafton could also be important to the Tigers' success this season. She scored 14 points and led the team with 12 rebounds on Saturday. Flores scored 16, and Brock had 14.
"Sydney Crafton, I thought, had 20 unbelievable minutes," Pingeton said. "But to learn how to sustain that for 40 minutes, that's the next challenge for her."
Missouri will get more opportunities to beat ranked teams. The Tigers play six more games this season against teams that are currently ranked in the AP top 25.
On Wednesday, the Tigers play at Kansas State (10-3), which is not ranked.
"The mentality, the focus, the intensity, it all has to be the same and consistent," Flores said.