Dominant first half leads Missouri women's basketball to win at Auburn

Sunday, February 16, 2014 | 5:42 p.m. CST; updated 4:04 p.m. CST, Monday, February 17, 2014

Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton decided to shake things up after her team lost seven of its past eight games. 

It turned out that a few minor adjustments made a big difference as Missouri (15-10) coasted to a 68-58 victory at Auburn (14-11) on Sunday. 

Pingeton's adjustments were visible from the opening tip. Freshman guard Sierra Michaelis got the nod for her first career start, and freshman forward Kayla McDowell made her second start of the season.

On defense, the Tigers opted to play a man-to-man defense instead of their usual 2-3 zone. 

Every move Pingeton made seemed to pay off. The Tigers dominated out of the gate, with the newest additions to the starting lineup making an instant impact. McDowell and Michaelis scored the Tigers' first ten points while leading a 12-0 Missouri run to begin the game.

Missouri's defense limited Auburn to two points in the first eight minutes of play. Auburn's offensive woes allowed the Tigers from Missouri to jump out to a 19-2 lead. 

The Tigers bounced back from a poor shooting performance against Alabama. Missouri connected on just five of 31 3-point field goal attempts in that game, but Sunday, more than half of Missouri's first half points came from beyond the arc.

Missouri took a 42-14 lead into the visitors' locker room at the half.  

"That first half was about as good of basketball we've played all year long," Pingeton said in a post game interview on KTGR 100.5 FM.

Auburn opened the second half with a 15-3 run that cut the deficit to 16. Its high-pressure defense created problems for Missouri. The Tigers continuously turned the ball over in the second half and tallied 27 total turnovers for the contest.

The Tigers' top priority on defense was stopping Auburn's senior forward Tyrese Tanner. Missouri accomplished this task in the first half, but struggled to limit Tanner in the second.

Tanner came into Sunday's matchup leading her team in points (16.3) and rebounds (6.3) per game. After being held scoreless in the first half, Tanner's 22 second half points helped Auburn cut down the Missouri lead.

Missouri, which led by as many as 28 points, held just a seven point lead with less than a minute to play.

Junior guard Morgan Eye answered multiple Auburn runs with 3-pointers and helped secure the win with a late free throw. Eye scored a team-high 21 points while shooting six of 10 from beyond the arc. 

"She answered some of their runs in a big-time way, and I just loved her focus," Pingeton said. 

In addition to snapping a three-game losing skid, this win assures Missouri a .500 or above record for the regular season and makes the Tigers postseason eligible for the second straight year. 

"This is a much-needed win for the players and for all of us," Pingeton said.

The Tigers face another road battle Thursday when they take on Florida (17-8, 7-5) at 6 p.m.

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