COLUMBIA — Robin Pingeton thought she saw it.
With 4:36 left to play, the Missouri women's basketball team forced Texas A&M's Curtyce Knox into a contested 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring. As the ball left Knox's hand, Missouri's head coach and many of her players on the court thought they saw the referee raise her hand to her head to signal a shot-clock violation.
When Missouri guard Maddie Stock pulled down the rebound, she tossed the ball to a nearby official. The official stepped aside and watched the ball roll out of bounds, giving possession back to the Aggies.
The referees did not blow their whistles, and a shot clock violation was not called.
Missouri went on to get a defensive stop on the following possession, but the Tigers could not come away with a victory, dropping their third straight game 62-57.
"I really felt like the official went to her head for the shot clock violation sign," Pingeton said. "I think that's what our players saw, and we assumed it's a violation."
Pingeton said she did not hear a whistle and understands the team's third consecutive loss to a ranked opponent cannot be blamed on one possession.
"It's a big possession, but there's a couple other big possessions there too that we didn't execute," she said. "We got to take ownership of that. We can't put that on officiating, we've gotta play through it until you hear a whistle, and that's part of the game."
Missouri's sharpshooters got off to a hot start against the Southeastern Conference's top 3-point defense. In a span of just over a minute, Missouri guards Morgan Eye and Morgan Stock combined for 9 points from beyond the arc and gave the Tigers an early 11-7 lead.
Missouri would retain the lead for the majority of the half, until the Aggies mounted a late 13-4 run and pulled ahead 22-21.
As the half drew to a close, Eye was able to break free for two open 3-pointers and put her team up once again. Those open looks, which helped put Missouri up 33-31 at halftime, were the last she would make.
The Aggies started the second half strong, connecting on their first four offensive possessions and regaining the lead.
A&M also shut down Missouri's best deep threat. The Aggies denied Eye the ball and limited the Tigers, who lead the conference in 3-point makes per game, to 0-for-5 shooting from deep in the second half.
The Aggies, who extended their winning streak to nine on Thursday night, have limited their opponents to 24 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
"I would say A&M is the best defensive team we've played this season so far," Pingeton said.
Texas A&M's Courtney Walker led all scorers with 21 points. Eye, who posted 15 in the first half, ended the game with 19.
After posting a career-high 30 points against LSU last week, Missouri's leading scorer Bri Kulas was limited to 14 points, but pulled down 11 rebounds.
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair applauded Kulas' scoring ability.
"She's just a great player, one of the best in our league, but we made her work for it," Blair said. "I think you've got a bona fide first-team all-SEC player in Kulas."
Missouri's third consecutive loss marks the halfway point of a grueling eight-game stretch for the Tigers. After Missouri played four straight top-25 teams, three of its next four opponents are also in the top 25.
"I give a lot of credit to Missouri — they're going through a tough stretch, seven out of eight ranked teams they've played," Blair said. "But this is the SEC. We're not in the Big 12 anymore."
Pingeton understands her team can grow from the tough schedule.
"Losing is no fun," she said. "I'm probably the worst loser you'll ever meet, but I'm going to keep things in perspective and not just evaluate my team by that scoreboard."
Missouri plays next at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mississippi State, the lone unranked team in this eight-game stretch.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison: sports@ColumbiaMissourian.com, 882-5730.
Box score available here.