Missouri women prevail in overtime against Western Illinois

Upperclassmen filled key voids for the Tigers and fueled the victory.

It wasn’t simple, but the Missouri women’s basketball team (1-0, 0-0 SEC) managed to survive an upset bid from Western Illinois (0-1, 0-0 Summit League) with a 97-89 overtime win on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.

The Tigers prevailed thanks to senior leadership from the likes of Jordan Chavis, Amber Smith and Jordan Roundtree, all three of which were among the players trusted to win and close out the game in the extra period.

Coach Robin Pingeton opted for a combination of experience and fresh talent in her starting lineup. Freshmen Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank were among the first on the floor, joined by the senior trio of Chavis, Smith and Roundtree.

There were jitters from the beginning for Missouri as Western Illinois’ defense established itself as far more competitive than anything the Tigers saw in preseason play. Further complicating matters, Blackwell entered some foul trouble early, picking up two personals and only playing the first 2:37 of the first half.

Chavis, on the other hand, played the entire first half, scoring almost a third of Missouri’s points in an evenly-matched first 20 minutes. The Leathernecks looked to be a worthy opponent, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds while routinely cutting through the back door to make easy layups at the hoop.

“They were relentless,” Pingeton said. “They came out of the gate and played a little more aggressive than we did.”

Western Illinois started the second half quickly with a 12-2 run, creating the real possibility of an upset bid. Facing a four-point deficit entering the fourth quarter, a stern-looking Pingeton had a clear message for her team: focus on the rest of the game.

“I just kept reminding them, we can’t fix what happened the first 30 minutes of the game, but we can sure take care of the last 10,” Pingeton said.

The Tigers reclaimed the lead halfway through the final quarter, but couldn’t separate from the Leathernecks. The visitors leveled the score at 81 with 30 seconds to play, sending the game to overtime.

The five upperclassmen trusted to finish out the fourth quarter — Chavis, Smith, Roundtree, Elle Brown and Hannah Schuchts — played the entire overtime period, securing the Tigers’ win.

Western Illinois began overtime with a three-pointer, but Roundtree completed a layup and picked up an and-one on the other end to tie the game before draining a three from the baseline. The Tigers never relinquished the lead, avoiding the upset.

After impressive performances in Missouri’s two exhibition games, freshmen Frank and Blackwell had quiet nights. Frank scored nine points but fouled out seconds into the fourth quarter while Blackwell failed to score from the field with her only point coming from a free throw.

Upperclassmen filled the void, which Pingeton says is proof of how Frank and Blackwell will be able to take time to grow.

“I told them in the locker room after the game, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint,’” Pingeton said. “They’re going to be just fine.”

Missouri continues non-conference play against Nebraska (0-0) at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Mizzou Arena.

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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