Nine things to know about Missouri women's basketball

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | 7:57 p.m. CST; updated 6:49 a.m. CST, Thursday, December 12, 2013
The Missouri women's basketball team is off to a hot start. It's posted a 9-1 record to begin the season.

COLUMBIA — After its record-setting offensive outburst against Bradley, the Missouri women's basketball team is enjoying a well-deserved eight-day break between games. The Tigers have gotten off to a hot start. They've posted a 9-1 record to begin their season. 

Here are nine things to know now about the Missouri women's basketball team.

1. Bri Kulas has avoided senioritis

The standout transfer made a name for herself last year during her first season at Missouri, leading the Tigers in points and rebounds. The senior captain continues to impress this season. Once again, she leads Missouri in scoring and ranks third among all Southeastern Conference scorers with 17.3 points per game. Kulas' efforts have not gone unnoticed; the forward was named SEC Co-Player of the Week (Nov. 25) and joined Morgan Eye as the only two Missouri Tigers named to the all-tournament team at the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament.

2. The Stock sisters can score

Maddie and Morgan Stock failed to make a big splash in their freshman campaign, when the twins combined for just less than 6 points per game. This season, the Stocks have both emerged as sharpshooters off the bench. The St. Louis natives each average more than 7 points per game and have played a critical role in the Tigers' success from beyond the arc.

"They've really taken a giant step forward, from where they were at the end of last season to today," coach Robin Pingeton said. "They're obviously key players for us — both coming off the bench but doing just an outstanding job for us."

3. The team can shoot from deep

Led by junior guard Morgan Eye, Missouri continues to beat opponents from the outside. Eye leads all SEC shooters, averaging 3.1 3-pointers per game. The junior needs 21 3-pointers to become the school's all-time leading 3-point shooter. As a team, the Tigers have connected on 106 shots from beyond the arc. They rank first in the conference and have made 40 more 3s than any other SEC school.

4. Inexperience is not a problem

Inexperience was a concern for Tigers fans coming into the year. Missouri returned just two starters from last season. With only four upperclassmen on the roster, the Tigers have counted on younger players to contribute. Freshman forward Jordan Frericks has started all 10 competitions. She leads the team in rebounding with 7.8 per game and blocks with 2.2 per game. Fellow freshman forward Kayla McDowell has also proved herself as a reliable dual-threat in the post. 

"We have a young team, a young, inexperienced team," Pingeton said. "So to see the maturity level that I've seen on the court and in the locker room, I've been so impressed."

5. This team has depth

Missouri's bench has played an important role during the team's early success. The Tigers' reserves have outscored their opponent's bench in eight of their first 10 games. In addition to the points Maddie and Morgan Stock provide off the bench, Lindsey Cunningham has been a critical difference-maker on defense. 

"This season we will continue to go very deep into our bench, and it's a great weapon to have in our pocket," Pingeton said.

6. They play unselfish basketball

Missouri's offensive firepower has been the product of great ball movement. The Tigers' 18.7 assists per game ranks second in the SEC. Sophomore guard Lianna Doty leads the team with 6.6 assists per game. The team's offense has also efficiently taken care of the ball with a 1.2-to-1 assist-turnover rate.

7. They make the easy shots

When they get to the free throw line, the players take advantage of it. The Tigers lead the SEC with a free throw percentage of 80.5.

8. Defense is the key

The Tigers insist their impressive offense has been a product of great defense. Throughout the early season, Pingeton has challenged her team to set the tone with defense. The Tigers have limited opponents to 58.8 points per game while averaging 77.6 points of their own.

"That offense came from our defense," Morgan Stock said after the Tigers' 126-point performance. "If we can keep doing that, we can keep having more fun."

9. Expectations are high

Many of the Tigers came into this season with the goal of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. This feat hasn't been accomplished since Missouri's 2006 tournament appearance. With the SEC schedule set to begin in early January, the Tigers understand they must take advantage of their remaining nonconference schedule.

"I guess we had pretty high expectations coming into the season," Pingeton said. "I'm really proud of them, but we also have an extremely realistic understanding that we have a long way to go."

Supervising editor is Erik Hall.

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