COLUMBIA — At midcourt, Bri Kulas holds the ball and surveys the gymnasium.
The Missouri women’s basketball team disperses with every white jersey closely followed by an orange one. Kulas finds Morgan Eye outside the 3-point arc. When the ball sails into her hands, she pauses as a Tennessee player charges with flailing arms.
Under pressure, Eye glances at her options before locking onto the basket. Through the extended arms of her defensive opponent, the ball sails toward the basket and through the net, increasing Missouri's lead to 53-46 with 11 minutes left to play.
It was Eye's fifth of six 3-pointers in Missouri's 80-63 win against No. 9 Tennessee on Sunday at Mizzou Arena. Before the game, Eye had made 84 shots from behind the arc this season and was within six of the Missouri single-season record of 90, set by Alyssa Hollins in 2008.
When Eye was informed that she matched the school record during the post-game press conference, a smile stretched across her face.
"I had no idea until now," Eye said. "I take the win over any personal stats any day."
Eye shot 50 percent from long-range and led the team in points with 26. Kulas followed with 20 points, and Liz Smith scored 10. Missouri made 11 of its 3-point shots.
"They shoot the ball very well at home, but we knew that going in," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "We just weren’t disciplined enough, and she just pounded them in."
After losing to Tennessee 84-39 earlier this season in Knoxville, Eye said she and her teammates felt motivated to prove they could do more.
"The first time we traveled to Tennessee, I think we were a little awe-struck. It’s a special place — that’s why their home record is as good as it is," Missouri basketball coach Robin Pingeton said. "They took us to the wood shed. I think we have a much better understanding of the physicality required in this league."
At halftime, Tennessee led 37-34. With 17 minutes left to play, Kulas found Smith inside the paint, and Smith scored to decrease the Volunteers' lead to 41-39. Although the Tigers trailed, they had already matched the amount of points they scored in their last game against Tennessee.
"Our defense was unacceptable today," Tennessee senior Taber Spani said. "Missouri was very inspired, and they came in and played great. I think they wanted it more."
The last time Missouri beat a top 10 team was in Januray 2010 against Baylor.
During the postgame press conference, tears filled Smith's eyes as she spoke.
"In all my career, I’ve never felt anything like what I felt at the end of today's game," Smith said.
With Missouri up 76-63, the announcement that there was one minute remaining triggered a standing ovation. On the floor were seniors Smith, Syndey Crafton, and Liene Priede with sophomores Eye and Kyley Simmons.
"I don't really consider Morgan Eye and Kyley Simmons young anymore," Smith said. "We've had a lot of growth as a team, and we've become really close — that's the biggest difference."
With 90 3-pointers for the season, Eye has surpassed her freshman season total of 63.
"They're different," Spani said. "No one shoots the ball like Missouri that I've seen in four years."
As the press conference continued following Eye learning of the record, she looked down at the table with a grin, suppressing a smile.
"I don’t think it’s any secret that this is a program that hasn’t had a lot of success in the past few years," Pingeton said. "We’re laying the foundation brick by brick, and this is just another brick."
With Pingeton's face resting in her hand, she caught a glimpse of Eye's smile, which triggered a smile of her own.
"Special night today," Pingeton said. "That's for sure."