TEMPE, Ariz. — Missouri picked a bad night to have its worst offensive performance of the season.
The Tigers’ offense sputtered at the end of the first half and then completely stalled in the second, allowing Stanford to run away with a 68-44 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday.
Missouri shot a season-low 31 percent and its 44 points are its lowest output of the season. Aside from Stretch James, who scored 20, no Missouri player was able to shake the Cardinal’s pressure defense.
“The key to the game was the lack of offensive execution,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “We just couldn’t hit the shots and it was very frustrating all night.”
Missouri (17-13) scored 15 in the first 8:50, but Stanford’s defense quickly tightened and the Tigers completely lost their offensive rhythm. The Tigers rarely got an uncontested shot in the last 30 minutes and as every shot clanged off the side of the rim or slammed off the backboard Missouri’s season drew closer to an end.
Stanford (25-6), the Pac-10 Conference regular season and tournament champion, advances to play Oklahoma in the second round of the Midwest Regional on Monday at 10 p.m.
The loss marks a disappointing end to the careers of Missouri’s five seniors, including Evan Unrau and Tracy Lozier, the only Tigers to play all four years at Missouri.
Unrau and Lozier tasted NCAA Tournament success as freshmen when the Tigers pulled off upsets in the first two rounds of the 2001 NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, but Missouri’s stagnant offense and inability to stop Stanford’s Nicole Powell, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, prevented the Tigers from mounting another postseason run.
Despite the blowout loss, the Tigers can find consolation in making it to the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri started the Big 12 Conference season 0-4 and its postseason hopes looked bleak when center Melanie Fisher injured her lower back Jan. 30, joining point guard LaToya Bond, who broke her left foot Jan. 5, on the injured list.