Missouri women's basketball team hopes to end losing streak

Saturday, February 23, 2013 | 9:46 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — When the clocked paused at 1:21, Robin Pingeton's voice echoed through Mizzou Arena.

With the Missouri women's basketball team trailing LSU 70-68 in overtime Friday, a foul called on Bri Kulas triggered protest from the Tigers coach and the few fans scattered across the stands.

As LSU's Shanece McKinney planted her feet at the free-throw line, Pingeton's arms dropped limply to her side. She looked to the referee for an explanation with disappointed eyes.

Helpless in contesting the call, she sat down and watched McKinney sink two shots to increase Missouri's deficit to 72-68.

"Very frustrating," Pingeton said of the foul. "But we had other opportunities we did not take advantage of."

Attendance was small after the game was postponed from Thursday night because of a snowstorm. The sound of screeching sneakers shuffling against the hardwood pierced the arena while the Tigers desperately swatted at the opposition. They continued drawing fouls in attempt to stop the relentless countdown to Missouri's fourth consecutive loss.

But Missouri never recovered after giving up 29 points off 21 turnovers.

Pingeton attributes the losing skid to the youth and inexperience of her team. The Tigers have struggled since beating then-No.-9-ranked Tennessee on Feb. 3.

"Coach says control the controllables," freshman guard Lianna Doty said after Missouri's loss to Arkansas on Feb. 17. "I don't think missed shots were the only reason we lost the past three games."

The team had been in a shooting slump, making just nine of 63 3-pointers in the three games before facing LSU.

"It’s going to happen when you’re a shooting team," Doty said. "Just control the controllables and eventually, shots will fall." 

On Friday, the shots finally fell. The Tigers shot 10-for-20 long range. But it wasn't enough.

Pingeton said maintaining the right mindset is still a work in progress for her team. For Pingeton, "controllables" involve taking care of the ball and remaining positive.

“I felt like against Tennessee and Florida, we were able to move onto the next play and not get hung up on the last,” Pingeton said. "We've just got to move forward."

Liz Smith sat beside Pingeton in the post-game news conference following the loss to LSU. Her eyes were glassy and her voice quivered when she spoke.

“I think as a team, we need to get tougher mentally,” Smith said. "We're there. I don't know if it's just games or what because I think our practices, with the exception of one, have been pretty solid."

The buzzer sounded, and the Missouri fight song flatly blared through the speakers. With the band absent and the scoreboard displaying the 78-74 result, energy had drained from the arena.

"It doesn’t matter what the refs are doing or what everybody else was doing or whether the ball goes in the basket or not — there are so many other things you can control," Doty said. "We need to control what we can control. That’s what we need to get back to."

The Tigers leave behind the snow and will play at 2 p.m. Sunday at Auburn. Missouri earned an 82-76 victory over Auburn on Jan. 6 in the Tigers' Southeastern Conference home opener.

With three regular-season games left, the Tigers remain one win away from assuring a .500 overall record, which could qualify them for the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

"I don’t look at it as pressure; I look at it as an opportunity," Pingeton said. "If you feel pressure, you better wrap your arms around it and embrace it."

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