Evan Unrau is not the best-known player in the Big 12 Conference, but she proved again Sunday why teams respect her.
Unrau’s career-high 40 points couldn’t save Missouri in a 93-90 double-overtime loss to No. 8 Kansas State on Sunday afternoon at Hearnes Center.
Unrau, a senior forward, fouled out with 1.9 seconds left and walked off the floor to a standing ovation.
“Her play today, in my mind, is probably one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said.
“It’s the best performance because of the toughness factor. That is what I love, the toughness factor, and she’s got it” she said.
Unrau also led the Tigers (13-11, 4-9 Big 12) in rebounds with 15 and assists with four. Unrau played almost all the game’s 50 minutes and only turned over the ball once.
“I just wanted to win,” Unrau said. “I think we are at that point in the season that we have to win. I love this team so much and we have got to go out and put everything you have on the floor.”
Missouri led 40-29 at halftime, but struggled in the second half, allowing the Wildcats a 17-0 run to reclaim the lead 58-56 with 4:49 left.
The teams exchanged points the rest of the half, but Unrau made a layup with three seconds left to tie the game at 67 and send it to overtime.
“We know that teams are always going to always make that surge back on top,” Stein said. “The main thing is just being able to answer it. I felt like we answered it a lot.”
The teams took turns leading in overtime until Kansas State’s Kendra Wecker scored with 11 seconds left to make it 79-79.
Missouri crossed midcourt and called timeout with six seconds left to set up a play. Junior center Megan Roney inbounded the ball to sophomore guard LaToya Bond, who passed to Unrau. Unrau drove the left baseline, but missed.
Missouri’s MyEsha Perkins, a senior guard, fouled Laurie Koehn on a 3-point shot to open the second overtime. Koehn, a junior guard, made all three free throws to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
Kansas State extended its lead to eight twice during the period, but Missouri came back behind Unrau’s 7-2 run. Perkins’ layup with four seconds left brought the Tigers within two before Wecker made a free throw and time ran out.
“I have never been more proud of a team after a loss as I am today,” Stein said. “We are extremely disappointed, obviously, in the loss, but I felt like our team gave their heart and soul tonight and as a coach you can’t ask for anything more.”
Senior center Nicole Ohlde, who scored 31 points in the Wildcat’s 95-59 blowout of Missouri on Jan. 7, scored 23, and Wecker led the team with 26. Kansas State had four players in double figures.
Perkins and senior forward Stretch James each scored 14 and Bond added 11 for Missouri, but it was Unrau’s performance that stood out.
Unrau, who scored 20 and had nine rebounds in the first half, got her league-leading 12th double-double of the season. She also leads the Big 12 with seven double-doubles. Her 15-foot basket with 4:34 left in the first half made her the eighth player to score 1,500 points for Missouri.
“I’ve said it many times, I think that Evan is one of the best players in the country, and she proves it every night,” Stein said. “She has been the heart and soul here and I think our kids are feeding off her. Evan gives us that toughness and stuff every game.”
Despite losing, Unrau said she thought Sunday’s game was better than the first time the two teams met this year.
“I’d pick this game over getting blown by 40 any day,” Unrau said. “I think we gained a lot of respect from a lot of people. It definitely hurts, but we just took the (No. 8) team to double-overtime and lost by three points. It could have gone either way.”