COLUMBIA — Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton knew Sunday's competition against Western Illinois would challenge her players. They would have to bounce back days after an upset loss at Missouri State and remain focused with an upcoming holiday break in the near future.
"Games like this are always tough," Pingeton said in a post-game radio interview on KTGR (100.5, Columbia). "As invested as our group is, it's a great group of ladies I get to coach everyday. But, it's a group that's awfully close to their families. So I was just trying to keep them zoned in and finish today strong going into Christmas break. But, they found a way to get it done."
The SEC's top teams faced tough tests as their non-conference schedules drew to a close. Four of conference's five ranked teams did not fare well this weekend. Here's a recap of this weekend's Southeastern Conference's struggles.
#6 Stanford 76 #3 Tennessee 70
#2 Duke 69 #5 Kentucky 61
N.C State 89 #12 LSU 79
Rutgers 61 #16 Georgia 58
Focus did not appear to be an issue for the Tigers. They jumped out to an early 9-0 lead that was never relinquished during their 75-60 victory over Western Illinois.
After combining for just 12 points in Thursday's loss, forwards Bri Kulas and Jordan Frericks led the charge for Missouri scoring the team's first 13 points. Kulas would go on to post 17 points while the Frericks earned her fourth career double-double scoring 14 and pulling down 12 rebounds.
Missouri led by 18 at half, but stumbled out of the break allowing the Leathernecks to cut the lead to single digits. However, Missouri's junior guard Morgan Eye helped keep the Tigers ahead while leading all scorers with 22 points. Eye did the majority of her damage from beyond the arc, connecting on six of her eleven 3-point attempts.
Pingeton was especially pleased with junior guard Bree Fowler's performance. After starting the Tigers' first 12 games, Fowler came off the bench for the first time this year.
"That's a testament to her character," Pingeton said of Fowler. "It's hard when you get pulled out of the lineup and you don't know what your rotations going to be, and she came in and I thought she played really big minutes for us."
Pingeton will use the holiday break to decide whether Fowler will regain her position in the starting lineup.
"I'm really excited about getting back here and getting started with practices," Pingeton said. "We'll have a handful of practices, and we'll be able to evaluate who did what over break."
"There have been some really bright spots, and there have been some areas where we really need to sure things up in a hurry," Pingeton continued.
With this win, the Tigers conclude their non-conference schedule with an 11-2 record. The Tigers have a 10-day holiday break before beginning the Southeastern Conference schedule on the road at Ole Miss on Jan. 2.