COLUMBIA — As the final seconds wound off the clock, Lianna Doty stood upright dribbling the ball. Excitement rippled though the stands as the crowd rose to its feet.
Applause and whistling filled Mizzou Arena, drowning out the sound of the ball smacking the hardwood. Kyley Simmons and Morgan Eye approached Doty with extended arms, exchanging smiles and high fives as the buzzer sounded.
The Missouri women's basketball team beat Tennessee-Martin 82-71 on Monday night to improve its record to 6-2.
With two minutes remaining in the second half, Bri Kulas launched the ball to the corner of the court into the hands of Eye. With a flick of her wrist, she watched her eighth 3-pointer of the game sail through the net, pulling the Tigers further ahead to a 78-69 lead.
“Just when you’re in a rhythm, you don’t hesitate,” Eye said. "I just lock on my target and hit it.”
Eye broke a school record with her eight 3-pointers.
"My teammates just kept encouraging me to shoot the ball,” Eye shrugged, “So I said, ‘OK, sounds good.’”
With 11 minutes left to play, Missouri was up 57-56. Sydney Crafton heaved the ball from under the basket across the court to Simmons. Standing behind the 3-point line, she kept her arm extended and hand dipped as her gaze followed the arch of her shot before it dropped through the basket.
“Syd was talking about how she felt that when she got to the basket, she had her choice of whatever shooter she wanted,” Doty said grinning.
As Simmons backpedaled to the other side of the court, she pointed to Crafton with a smile and exchanged a fist pump with Eye.
"Coach P has been on me about looking for that open shot," Simmons said. "It’s been something I’ve been working on in practice."
In Missouri's past six games, Simmons had taken 16 shots. She took six in Missouri's game against Tennessee-Martin and totaled nine points.
“I feed off of it, big time," Simmons said. "Once Moe hits a couple, it’s like ‘OK, I can shoot one, here it goes.'''
Ten minutes into the first half, Tennessee-Martin had made five of their 3-point shots, and Missouri had made none.
Simmons broke drought, and Eye followed with three successful shots in the first half. At halftime, Missouri was up 40-37.
“I don’t think we handed it to them. I think they took it,” Tennessee-Martin coach Kevin McMillan said of Missouri's second-half performance.
Three Missouri players scored in the double digits. Doty scored 12, Kulas scored 20 and Eye scored 26, surpassing her personal record of 19 points in a game.
"Really proud of our girls, finishing out the game strong — I thought we did that," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "It wasn’t something we were able to do in Cancun, so I certainly think it shows some growth within our team."