Missouri women hopeful of getting WNIT bid

03/16/2014 6:39 PM

03/16/2014 6:39 PM

It’s been nearly two weeks since Missouri was bounced from the SEC women’s basketball tournament — two very long weeks.

But the Tigers’ wait to learn its /their postseason fate comes to an end tonight.

“The wait is hard, but I think we’re taking this time to get better,” said senior Bri Kulas, a Shawnee Mission North graduate.

The Tigers, 17-13, aren’t likely to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but the Women’s National Invitation Tournament probably awaits.

“I feel really confident,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said when asked about an WNIT berth. “With what we were able to get done this year and some of our big wins in the SEC and just the strength of the SEC, I’ve got to believe we’re in pretty good shape. Certainly, you never know until you get the phone call, but I feel like we’re in pretty good shape.”

For a program starved for success, the Tigers, who knocked off four top-six teams in the SEC (Florida, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Georgia), welcome a second straight postseason tourney berth, even if it falls shy of the preseason goal to make the NCAA tourney.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Kulas, a first-team All-SEC selection who averaged a team-best 18.6 points this season. “That’s why, this week, we really got after it and tried to shore up some of those little things. It definitely comes down to attention to detail. We’ve lost a number of games by single digits, which comes down to those little things.”

Missouri hasn’t reached the postseason or posted winning seasons in back-to-back years since 2005-06 and 2006-07.

“We’re all really proud of the growth we’ve shown this season — certainly, a long way from being satisfied,” Pingeton said. “We know we have a lot of work to do ahead of us, but” there’s ample reason to be happy “when you look at the numbers and the strength of this league and where this program is at.”

Missouri also made the WNIT last season, losing 60-58 at home against Eastern Illinois in the first round. That’s why advancing in the WNIT is important as a demonstration of the progress that has been made.

“We wanted to improve, and I think we did,” Kulas said. “Coach talked about last year how we had so many games that we lost by double digits. This year, we only lost four games by double digits and didn’t lose any games by 20 points. I’ve definitely seen an improvement in the program.”

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