COLUMBIA — The Missouri women's basketball team's losing streak has ended, and the Tigers' postseason hopes remain alive.
Missouri upset No. 14 South Carolina 65-58 on Thursday night at Mizzou Arena, but the Tigers did not win the game with 3-point shooting. They outscored the Gamecocks in the paint 34-14.
"We talked about protecting the power zone," said the Tigers Bri Kulas, who led the team in points with a career-high of 26, grabbed 12 rebounds and shot 10-for-13 on free throws.
Pingeton leaned forward and added, "I think we said we were going to dominate the power zone."
After Missouri's 80-63 upset of Tennessee on Feb. 3, the Tigers lost their next five games.
"You beat a team like Tennessee and Florida, and the expectations go sky high," Pingeton said. "I think we are making Mizzou Arena a tough place to play."
With 12:24 left in the first half, South Carolina sank a 3-pointer to pull ahead 11-10. It was the Gamecocks' last lead of the game.
With 30 seconds left before half and the score tied at 26, a foul of Kulas allowed the Tigers two free throws that gave Missouri a 28-26 halftime lead.
At half, Kulas led the team in points with 12 and had four rebounds. Morgan Eye had just one 3-pointer, but she led the team in rebounds with five. Missouri outscored South Carolina in the paint 16-8. However, the Tigers turned the ball over 10 times and South Carolina capitalized with 10 points of the miscues.
"It's very uncharacteristic of our team to get out-hustled," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "They wanted it more, and they won."
Shooting success for the Tigers continued in the second half, and they outscored the Gamecocks in the paint 18-6while reducing its number of turnovers to six.
"We talked about how this was going to be one of the most aggressive teams defensively that we face all year," Pingeton said. "We have to protect our space and be willing to drive to the basket."
Sydney Crafton scored 11 points for the Tigers, and Liene Priede followed with 10. Morgan Eye scored 8 points and totaled seven rebounds.
The Tigers turned the ball over 16 times, an improvement from 19 in Missouri's 67-59 loss to Auburn on Sunday.
The Tigers improve to 16-13 overall and 5-10 in Southeastern Conference play. This win assures Missouri a .500 overall record, which could qualify them for the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
"We haven’t talked a lot about win No. 16. We’ve talked about playing our best," Pingeton said. "I can assure you the furthest thing from my mind tonight is postseason."
The Tigers will play in their final regular season game Sunday at Alabama.