It was the first time a Big 12 Conference team had played in Evansville, Ind., and the Purple Aces wanted Missouri to remember the experience.
The Missouri women’s basketball team defeated Evansville 78-72 on Sunday at Roberts Stadium in a game that was close throughout with eight ties and 11 lead changes.
“This game against a Big 12 team is one of (Evansville’s) biggest games all year so they were very up for it,” Missouri assistant Betsy Yonkman said.
The Tigers (6-2) had four starters in double figures. Senior Stretch Ja-mes finished with 17 points and five rebounds. James made 8-of-14 from the field and scored 15 in the second half, including four straight buckets in a little more than two minutes.
Senior Evan Unrau recorded her third double-double of the season with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Tracy Lozier scored 12 and sophomore LaToya Bond had 15.
Yonkman said James struggled to find a groove in the first half but played well in the second.
“I think Stretch really got into a rhythm and really set the tone for the second half,” Yonkman said.
The Purple Aces (4-4) led 35-32 after the first half, but James helped bring the Tigers back, and Missouri gained its first lead of the half with 17:42 left when Unrau hit a jump shot to put the Tigers ahead 38-37.
The teams traded baskets for most of the half, and Missouri led 58-56 with 8:32 remaining before widening the gap. Lozier made two free throws with 24 seconds left to give Missouri its largest lead of the game at 77-69.
“Our execution on offense and our intensity on defense were much better (in the second half,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “(In the first half) we were just rushing things. We were too impatient, taking shots in the first 10 seconds instead of working the ball around.”
Evansville gained an early 7-0 lead, but Missouri came back to lead 11-9 when Unrau hit a layup with 15:34 left.
Evansville capitalized on a nine-minute span where the Tigers scored only one field goal. With Missouri down 26-17, Unrau sparked a series of five straight 3-pointers in the final four minutes of the half to give the Tigers a 32-29 lead. Evansville scored three layups in the final 53 seconds to earn the halftime advantage.
“Those 3-pointers in the first half really kept us in the game,” Yonkman said. “Without those I am not sure where we would be.”
LOZIER MOVES UP: Lozier scored her 110th career 3-pointer with 2:54 remaining in the first half, passing Kerensa Barr and moving into third on the Tigers all-time list.
PERKINS CONTRIBUTES: Senior guard MyEsha Perkins played Sunday for the first time this season. Perkins, who was declared academically eligible on Friday, played for nine minutes made 2-of-3 from the field for four points.