COLUMBIA — As the final seconds of the first half clicked off the scoreboard, the Missouri women’s basketball team stood tall under the basket.
Sydney Crafton extended her arms, blinding Murray State players with the palm of her hand while swatting relentlessly at the ball. In the Racers' final possession of the first half, they made four shots and missed all of them before the buzzer sounded, allowing the Tigers to enter the locker room with a 29-28 lead.
It was the Tigers' play under the basket that ultimately earned them a 69-55 victory over Murray State on Thursday evening at Mizzou Arena.
"I didn't feel like we had that explosiveness that we had before," coach Robin Pingeton said. "Is that three games in three days, is that Christmas break, is that a little bit of the flu bug running through the team, or is it a combination of all three?"
Missouri (11-2) had to lean on senior center Liz Smith to pull the team through for its seventh straight victory.
The nation's leading 3-point shooting team went cold from behind the arc in the first half. Morgan Eye, who is ranked No. 5 in the nation from long range, shot 0-for-2, and the Tigers entered the locker room at halftime having made just two of their 15 3-point shots. Pingeton attributed the slow start to the team's overall exhaustion.
"I couldn't complain because Morgan Eye came in a didn't complain at all," sophomore guard Kyley Simmons said.
An hour and 15 minutes before the game, Pingeton said she didn't expect to play Eye because she had been sick the night before with the flu. Eye got an IV before the game, suited up and managed to play.
"I felt like we played with a lot of toughness despite those factors," Pingeton said.
Smith kept her territory in the paint under control with a season high of 19 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. Smith blocked the Racers' first shot of the second half and grabbed several key defensive rebounds to help send the Tigers on an 7-o run.
"I came in with the mindset I usually do, but the way the guards and post players were stacked it worked out really well," Smith said.
Junior forward Bri Kulas, who also was also feeling ill and had to leave the game several times, followed with 13 points and eight rebounds. Lianna Doty scored 10 points, and Crafton grabbed 10 rebounds. Eye scored eight points in the second half.
"I can't think of a better time for us to go our separate ways and regroup a little bit and hopefully get healthy," Pingeton said about her team's upcoming break. The Tigers get to rest before playing at Memphis on Dec. 29.