Strong second half leads Missouri women's basketball team to victory

Thursday, December 6, 2012 | 9:17 p.m. CST; updated 11:12 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 6, 2012
The Missouri women's basketball team came out with a victory against Missouri State on Thursday at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers won 91-77.

COLUMBIA — They came in a pack of maroon, a big dark block breaking up the scattered gold in the stands of Mizzou Arena.

Wearing their Missouri State gear, the contingent had trekked three hours north to Columbia, hoping to watch their Bears topple their in-state rivals.

The fans watched their team take a 15-7 lead on 3-pointer after 3-pointer. At the first timeout, they offered a standing ovation for the early effort.

It didn't take long for the Missouri women's basketball team to make some noise, too. 

Morgan Eye entered the game and quickly sank three straight shots from beyond the arc. Eye scored 19 first-half points and finished with a game-high 21.

Each time the call of "Morgan Eye, bullseye!" boomed around the arena, the visitors grew quieter. 

With each Bears basket, a few heads rose above the pack, applauding. With each foul called, a few rose with their arms outstretched in protest.

By halftime, the Tigers had 10 3-pointers and a 51-49 lead. 

It was the third Missouri game this season billed as a "Battle for Missouri," but Thursday's game was the first that really felt like a battle.

"I think the first thing (Coach Robin Pingeton) said in the locker room was, 'This is fun,'" said senior guard Sydney Crafton, who had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. 

In the second half, the pack behind the Bears' bench didn't have much to cheer about. 

The Tigers weren't hitting 3-point shots, but Missouri State wasn't hitting much of anything, and its fans stayed planted firmly in their seats.

Meanwhile, Missouri found a way to get the ball inside and score points in the paint. 

"Any team's going to come out and guard the three," Crafton said. "You work with what you're given."

When a Bri Kulas layup gave Missouri a 10-point lead with eight minutes left, it was the Missouri fans' turn to give a standing ovation. 

Kulas finished with 17 points, and Liz Smith had a career-high 14, both scoring mainly from the paint.

Missouri came away with a 91-77 victory. The battle had become a blowout, and the pack of maroon fans left the arena quietly with nothing left to cheer about.

"I think it was fun for our fans," Pingeton said of the in-state rivalry. "Always a little more fun when you come out on top."

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