It appears Missouri coach Cindy Stein knew what she was talking about all along.
Two weeks after Stein said there was no reason for her team to panic after losing its third straight Big 12 Conference game, the Tigers seem to be turning their season around.
After an impressive win at Kansas on Saturday, Missouri played its most inspired basketball of the season to beat No. 20 Oklahoma 77-65 on Wednesday at the Hearnes Center.
The win snaps the Tigers’ 16-game losing streak against ranked teams and marks a dramatic reversal for a team that seemed to be in shambles following a 17-point loss at Colorado on Jan. 18.
“Finally is the word that I want to use to sum it up,” Missouri senior Evan Unrau said. “We struggled in the beginning of the Big 12 but we are starting to kind of feel it and we’re pretty excited about that.”
Against the Sooners, Missouri started its five seniors and looked like a team fighting for respect and its season. Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said considering the Tigers lineup, the Tigers’ intense second-half play did not surprise her.
“There is a hunger and a bit of desperation that exists sometimes with a senior-laden class,” Coale said. “I knew they were very dangerous coming in here and they played very well against Kansas and they looked like a team that believed they could win and we didn’t.”
Stein said her team must continue to play one game at a time since many tough tests lie ahead, including Saturday’s game against No. 11 Colorado.
“This is a great victory and this was a game we needed, but we’re not going to get all of a sudden really cocky about this whole thing,” Stein said. “We’re just going to focus on what we need to do to win the next game and not get real high and real low on any win or loss.”
GETTING PHYSICAL: Coaches and players often talk about the physical nature of the Big 12 and Wednesday night was no exception.
Oklahoma and Missouri combined for 33 personal fouls, but the Tigers did a better job of taking advantage of the physical play.
Missouri made all 21 of its free throws, a school record, while Oklahoma was 9-14 from the free-throw line.
Oklahoma’s foul-trouble also kept two of its best players off the floor for much of the second half.
Caton Hill, Oklahoma’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer this season, fouled out with 10 points and three rebounds despite playing 17 minutes because of foul trouble.
Leah Rush, who finished with 11 points and two rebounds for the Sooners, picked up her fourth foul with 8:40 left, sending her to the bench at a crucial point in the game.
OFFENSIVE OUTBURST: For the second straight game and fifth time this season, Missouri had four players score in double figures.
Stretch James led all scorers with 22 points. Unrau added 21 and Tracy Lozier and MyEsha Perkins had 14 points apiece.
Unrau also had 11 rebounds, earning her Big 12-leading ninth double-double. Unrau has reached double figures in points and rebounds in each of Missouri’s past four games.