For one half, at least, the Missouri women’s basketball team could dream a little.
They were 20 minutes from pulling a major upset and winning a second game in the Big 12 Conference Women’s tournament for the first — and last — time ever.
But reality hit when the shots did not. And the 10th-seeded Tigers fell 70-59 to second-seeded Oklahoma in a quarterfinal Thursday night at Municipal Auditorium.
The Tigers, 13-18, burst to a 33-23 halftime lead when most everything they put up seemed to go in, while Oklahoma, 20-11, was stone cold, making just nine of 35 shots. Mizzou added to the lead when BreAnna Brock opened the second half with a basket.
Then it all went blank for the Tigers.
They missed 10 straight shots, turned the ball over several times, and Oklahoma went on a 13-0 run. By the time Liene Priede ended the drought with a three-point play with 8:55 to play, Oklahoma had seized control of the game.
“I wish we wouldn’t have to have halftime,” said Missouri freshman guard Morgan Eye, who made three of six three-point shots in the first half, but missed both her attempts behind the arc in the second half. “Just go ahead and play through halftime.”
Senior Christine Flores, who scored 24 points in Wednesday’s first-round win over Oklahoma State, picked up where she left off, scoring 18 against Oklahoma, but she sensed a difference in the second half.
“It was a combination between us letting up a little bit and not going straight at them like we needed to,” Flores said. “Their shots (started) going down. We weren’t guarding them as hard as we needed to. We know they’re good outside shooters. They’re a great team.
“When we have a lead like that, we’ve got to keep pushing, and we didn’t. We let up for a little while, and that’s what really hurt us.”
Missouri jumped to a 16-5 lead when Oklahoma made just two of its first 13 shots, but the Sooners didn’t panic.
“Missouri is not an easy team to play against,” said Oklahoma coach Sheri Coale. “They may have finished at the bottom of the league, but they’re a lot better than their record.
“They were so hot. They just fought, and I think they ran out of gas a little bit. It was pretty obvious they played a tough game (Wednesday). They just ran out of gas down the stretch.”
The Sooners could tell the Tigers were playing free and easy and having fun because there was no pressure on them other than not to see their season end.
“They were really playing well,” said Oklahoma forward Whitney Hand. “It kind of put us on our heels in the first half. They were controlling the speed of the game. They were directing, and we were responding.
“It changed in the second half … and they were turning on their heels, and having to respond to us.”
The game turned with 16:27 in the second half when Brock, a 6-2 senior, picked up her third foul. The Sooners then took the game inside to their two freshmen, guard Sharane Campbell, who drove aggressively to the basket and scored 22 points, one shy of her career high; and forward Kaylon Williams, who scored 12.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton. “Just breakdowns on our end, and Oklahoma upped the ante after halftime.”
Flores closed out her career with a lot of memories, including her becoming Missouri’s all-time shot-block leader and seeing a coaching change midway through her career.
“These four years, I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Flores said as she fought back tears. “They’ve been amazing. When Coach P came in, she just whipped me into shape. She turned around my whole entire life. It wasn’t just basketball she turned around. She’s only made me a better player and person. I couldn’t have asked for any more.”