Defense aids Missouri women's basketball's comeback against Southeast Missouri State

Thursday, November 21, 2013 | 10:57 p.m. CST; updated 6:53 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 12, 2013
Missouri women's basketball took on Southeast Missouri State on Thursday at Mizzou Arena. Missouri outscored Southeast Missouri State in the second half to earn a 62-57 win.

COLUMBIA — A win might be a win, but this one wasn't pretty for the Missouri women's basketball team.

"Well, I'll be honest with you, that wasn't one of the prettier games I think I've ever coached in," said coach Robin Pingeton after Missouri's 62-57 win against Southeast Missouri State on Thursday.

Missouri went into halftime shooting just 26.5 percent from the field and 10 percent from beyond the arc, and trailing the Redhawks by 9 points. The Tigers had missed more than 21 layups.

After missing shots, the Tigers looked to their defense at halftime. 

"This is where you dig deep and just flat-out defend like it's nobody's business," sophomore guard Lianna Doty said. "Those are the things we work on, the things we 100 percent control."

Missouri held the Redhawks to one field goal in the first seven minutes of the second half and forced 21 turnovers during the course of the game. The Tigers slowed the Redhawks' offensive production by limiting Kara Wright's opportunities. The sophomore shooting guard scored 18 first-half points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line en route to a career-high 26 points.

"Whenever you have a player like that, you never want to give them that much space and confidence with those wide-open looks," Doty said. 

Missouri forward Bri Kulas bested Wright, though, by posting a career-high 27 points of her own. Although the majority of her production came from inside the paint, Kulas made Missouri's only 3-pointer, which came just more than a minute into the game. 

"You know, points don't really matter to me," Kulas said. "I'm just out there doing what I can do to help my team succeed in any way possible." 

Kulas led the Tigers to a dominating low post performance in the second half, outscoring Southeast Missouri State 20-12 in the paint. Freshman forward Kayla McDowell chipped in with eight second-half points.

Although Pingeton said she was proud of her team's resilience, she hopes that this scare will serve a purpose for her inexperienced team.

"Hopefully it woke us up a little bit, jolted us a little bit," Pingeton said. 

The Tigers will take their first out-of-state road trip to face the University of Tennessee at Martin at 2 p.m. Saturday. Next week, Missouri will travel to Miami to compete in a Thanksgiving tournament. 

Supervising editor is Sasu Siegelbaum.

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