Missouri coach Cindy Stein has found a starting lineup she likes.
With the new combination, the MU women’s basketball team upset No. 20 Oklahoma 77-65 at Hearnes Center on Wednesday. The win is Missouri’s first against a ranked opponent since defeating Texas Tech 81-72 on Jan. 9, 2002, in Columbia.
The Tigers (11-6, 2-4 Big 12 Conference) had not beaten the Sooners in four tries.
Stein has settled on a lineup with five senior starters, four of whom combined for 71 points against the Sooners (13-5, 3-4).
“I am real proud of our kids, again,” Stein said. “Our challenge for ourselves was to continue the trend of the energy and everything we needed to do and the continuation of how we played against KU.”
Missouri’s 76-49 win at Kansas on Saturday was its first conference win.
“I think our five seniors are doing a really good job,” Stein said. “They play really well together, I think they demonstrated that. “
Senior forward Stretch James led all scorers with 22 points and eight rebounds while senior forward Evan Unrau scored 21 and had 11 rebounds for her fourth-straight double-double.
Missouri started the second half leading 33-31 and made its first 10 shots before missing with 11:53 left. Oklahoma made 6-of-7 shots, including three 3-pointers from freshman guard Erin Higgins, to stay with the Tigers.
After 11 ties and 15 lead changes, Missouri took the lead for good with 15:02 left when Oklahoma’s bench got a technical foul. James made both free throws to make it 50-48.
Missouri made a record 21-of-21 free throws, breaking the record of 14-of-14 set in 2000.
Oklahoma made its final run with 6:14 left when Caton Hill’s shot got the Sooners to within 63-60. Missouri answered with a 14-5 run to finish the game.
Oklahoma guard Maria Villarroel, who started the game averaging 14.2 points, was held to seven points. Oklahoma forward Caton Hill spent half of the game on the bench because of foul trouble. She is the second-highest scorer for Oklahoma, averaging 12.9 points in 26 minutes.
Stein said the Tigers’ defense was key, especially during Missouri’s scoring runs.
“Our defense was really active at those times,” Stein said. “We really created some degree of difficulty on some of their shots because of some of our rotations.”
Missouri’s turnaround coincides with the return of MyEsha Perkins, who had 14 points and three rebounds Wednesday. Perkins returned Saturday after missing two games for her role in the fight between Missouri and Kansas on Jan. 10.
“MyEsha can be very creative offensively and can provide a lot of things for a lot of people,” Stein said. “She’s not too easy to guard and that is good for us.”