Seniors step up for Missouri women's basketball when it matters

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | 8:41 p.m. CST; updated 8:22 a.m. CST, Friday, January 25, 2013
Missouri guard Sydney Crafton dribbles the ball past Arkansas-Pine Bluff center Makayla Wormley in nonconference play at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — With 1.7 seconds left in overtime, senior Sydney Crafton stepped to the free-throw line for Missouri. 

“It was almost just like any other free throw,” Crafton said. “I just told myself, 'If you think about the last one, you’re going to miss this one.'”

Thursday's game

Arkansas (13-5, 1-4 SEC)
at Missouri (13-6, 2-3 SEC)

WHEN: 7 p.m.
Mizzou Arena
 KTGR/100.5 & 103.1 FM

With the score tied at 72 in the Missouri women's basketball team's game at Mississippi on Sunday, Tigers coach Robin Pingeton called the play. Crafton drove in for a layup and drew a foul while fighting for her rebound. It was the first time in her college career she had been called on to decide the game.

"She’s not used to being in that role in regards to putting the team on her shoulders," Pingeton said. "When you’re a senior, the expectations change."

Crafton sunk the first of two shots to seal the Tigers' 73-72 victory and earn their first road win in the Southeastern Conference. It was the team’s veterans who stepped up when it mattered most, with Missouri’s seniors scoring 10 of its last 13 points.

"We haven't been playing well on the road," Pingeton said. "That was a big win for us. They hung in there and found a way to get it done."

With 2:05 left in overtime, Missouri led 67-66. Senior Liene Priede, who had made just one of her 19 3-point attempts this season, sunk a three to extend Missouri's lead to 70-66.

“A lot of people look at the stats and might be surprised she hit such a big three for us, but that’s something that we see her do every day in practice,” Pingeton said. “Hopefully, that kind of helped her take a deep breath, so she can finish the season the way we all know she can.”

Senior Liz Smith and junior Bri Kulas also stepped up. Kulas had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Smith went 5-for-6 for 12 points.

“I think everyone did a good job at remaining poised and doing what they had to do,” Smith said.

The young team known for its 3-point shooting now has two conference wins, which is as many as the Tigers achieved all last season.

“We’re different than last year’s team," Crafton said. "Most teams aren’t used to guarding like that, and you have to guard the majority of our parameter players. I just think this team is more confident.”

Missouri (13-6) will face Arkansas (13-5) on Thursday at Mizzou Arena.

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