First off, I think this Mizzou women's team needs to adopt a catchy hashtag like Mizzou volleyball has with #STP (Something To Prove).
I'm going to talk about this team in broader terms than just the outcome of this game, but to generally address last night's 62-57 game I'll start by showing you the box score:
Missouri cruised past Evansville last week with efficient shooting from long range and this week the Tigers showed their versatility by overwhelming SEMO down low. The Redhawks had no answer down the stretch as Mizzou scored 20 points in the paint in the second half to earn the gritty win. Two Redhawks forwards spent most of the night in foul trouble, a byproduct of Kulas and company attacking the basket en route easy buckets.
So last week they shot well from deep, but this week it looked like there was an effort to score more in the paint, draw fouls and rely less on the outside shot as a way of developing the younger player's games.
Bri Kulas lead the game with 27 points and no other player had double digit scoring. Kulas struggled a bit early with finishing under the basket, and that's where most of her points come from, either from post up situations, fast break situations, or an effective dribble drive spin move. Kayla McDowell had a very nice back to the basket game from what I saw and really uses her height to her advantage.
Pingeton started Kulas, Frericks, Doty, Fowler and Doty but every single girl on the bench except Davionna Holmes, Darian Saunders, and Michelle Hudyn saw playing time early in the first half, and I think that goes a ways toward explaining why the offense sputtered for long stretches and allowed SEMO to keep it close. This is a team that has a couple of solid offensive options, and then a lot of youth and inexperience still trying to figure out how to function in the flow of an offense and make "their" shot. However, there is a lot of height and talented hustle on this team that lends itself to a squad that can play defense and run the floor, and I think Pingeton knew that going in and decided she was comfortable playing a lower scoring game where she would rely on her team's defense to get the win.
That's the extent to which I'll break down the game itself and now I'm going to offer some personal observations about the players on the team.
I'll qualify this by explaining two things: one, my wife and her twin sister played D1 basketball and won an NIT Championship where they beat a Stein led team along the way, and two, this has resulted in me watching a lot of women's basketball, from youth leagues to Show-Me Games to the D1 level. This doesn't make me an expert by any means, but it's the best I can offer until I trick my wife into providing her input.
Let's look at the roster:
|00||Darian Saunders||F||6-1||SO||Tucson, Ariz. (Palo Verde Magnet)|
|1||Lianna Doty||G||5-7||SO||St. Louis, Mo. (Kirkwood)|
|2||Morgan Stock||G||6-1||SO||Town & Country, Mo. (St. Joseph's Academy)|
|3||Bree Fowler||G||5-9||JR||Kansas City, Mo. (Staley)|
|5||Davionna Holmes||F||6-3||RS FR||East St. Louis, Ill. (Louisville)|
|10||Maddie Stock||G||6-0||SO||Town & Country, Mo. (St. Joseph's Academy)|
|11||Lindsey Cunningham||G||6-0||RS FR||Columbia, Mo. (Rock Bridge)|
|12||Michelle Hudyn||F||6-2||SO||Kitchener, Ontario (Eastwood Collegiate)|
|13||Bri Kulas||F||6-1||SR||Shawnee Mission, Kan. (Johnson County Community College)|
|15||Tania Jackson||F||6-3||SR||Lawrence, Kan. (Kansas)|
|20||Kayla McDowell||F||6-2||FR||Cincinnati, Ohio (Mason High School)|
|22||Jordan Frericks||G/F||6-1||FR||Quincy, Ill. (Quincy Notre Dame)|
|24||Sierra Michaelis||G||5-10||FR||Mercer, Mo. (North Mercer High School)|
|30||Morgan Eye||G||5-9||JR||Montrose, Mo. (Montrose)|
First thing that should jump off the page is the amount of height you see. Of the 14 players, only 4 are listed below 6 foot. I walked down to court level so I could judge for myself and I came away impressed. I'm 6'2 and I was on eye level with most of this team. As I've argued elsewhere with men's basketball, you can't shoot or play defense with your head, you do those things with your arms, which is why I think wingspan is such an underrated aspect of player measurements. You're just going to have to trust me when I tell you that the freshman Robin Pingeton has brought in aren't just tall, they're long and athletic, and that's a awesome.
(Photos below from MUtigers.com.)
While Lianna Doty is every inch of 5'7 and plays a pretty solid point guard. She's Pingeton's most trusted ball handler, but that can be a problem because she's also an attacking defender who ended up fouling out late against SEMO which directly led to Lindsey Cunningham having to play the tense final minutes when SEMO was full court pressing. Doty is talkative and obviously a leader as I watched her constantly calling out plays on offense and leading huddles on the court and on the bench. She's obviously got the disadvantage of being the shortest player on the court, but by virtue of this fact, has the best handle and, after watching her tip away a rebound against a SEMO defender with easily 4 inches on her, plays like she has something to prove.
Morgan Eye had a rough shooting night, but was on the court for the most minutes so I'm sure Pingeton has identified her as the designated shooter to keep teams honest and draw the other team's best perimeter defender, which she did vs. SEMO. I know this because I was sitting next to the SEMO side of the crowd and they were all talking about how their girl was a "lock down defender", but I wasn't that impressed. Rather, Eye missed her shots and wasn't really the focus of last night's game plan, any buckets she scored I felt would have been "bonus".
A reminder: "Morgan Eye lit up the nets on her way to finishing the year as the one of if not the best three-point shooter in Division I. Eye led the country in three point shooting, set the Mizzou single game records for threes and set the SEC record for threes in a season."
I've already talked about Bri Kulas, and Mizzou is going to miss her when she graduates. I don't know if she's a pro prospect, be it here or overseas, but she's an inside-out player who can shoot a smooth jumper and when focused, can score over girls in the paint. She had a beautiful drive very late in the game after a timeout that essentially killed a SEMO comeback. I'm sure you'll hear more about her as the season progresses. If there is one thing I noticed that I would like to complain about, it's that she holds the ball too exposed which allows her defender to anticipate her movements, passes and when she's about to shoot.
I'm not sure what to make of Bree Fowler, she looks like the player most able to get "her own shot" by which I mean she can dribble and pull up for a jumper, or drive into the paint, but I didn't SEE her do that and the couple times she did she missed (she got all her points off free throws). I want to see her drive in and put up shots even if she misses because this team is very tall and can rebound for putbacks. She's a Junior, so I expect we'll see her featured more next year, but if she plays well this year, this team will have a dangerous option to force teams to be honest against.
The final starter was Jordan Frericks and it's hard not to be excited about her. She's every bit 6'1 and very long arms that make it easy for her to block shots and collect rebounds, which she led the team with. However, there were several of her shots under the basket that she failed to convert because she couldn't finish strong, either because her defender was physical or because she lacked touch. She doesn't really make her own shot, relying on players getting her the ball on cuts inside or off pick and pop situations and when she got the ball down low she tended to kick it back out or across the floor instead of trying to work her defender. I saw Pingeton talking to her on the court numerous times and though it'll require her developing more of an offensive game it's easy to see that Frericks is being groomed to be a face of the team kind of player. I'm going to go ahead and say that she's the Laurence Bowers of this team.
It was hard for me to distinguish Morgan and Maddie Stock and this comes from a guy who is married to a twin. They play similar games from what I saw. They can handle the ball some (they brought the ball up the court late in the game when Doty was out) and while they each missed 3 three pointers, they seem to be three point threats if only because of their height and ability to get that shot off over defenders. These are the gals my wife really wants to watch play so perhaps you'll get a better breakdown some time in the future from her perspective. Stay tuned.
Lindsey Cunningham looks like a shooting guard playing the point, and perhaps that's what she is, but she was the backup point during last night's game. She's another tall 6' who looks comfortable attacking the basket even with a defender on her. There were two different possessions where I saw her drive to the basket but then pass the ball off when she could have attempted a lay up or a jump shot where she was open. I think she needs to learn how to slash and score from Sierra Michaelis who looked really comfortable coming in and being instant-offense.
Tania Jackson, the transfer from Kansas, saw limited minutes in tonight's game, despite being a post, which confused me since it appeared to be a game where Pingeton was concentrating on scoring in the paint as evidenced by the solid backup play of Kayla McDowell who came in and in three less minutes looked very comfortable posting up and scoring 8 points on 6 shots and 2 free throws with a variety of moves including pulling off an up and under move against one of SEMO's taller defenders.
Final summary. What I saw was a team that has several key experienced players in Kulas and Fowler, complimented by a respected outside shooter in Eye and a tenacious point guard in Doty. The play of the rest of the team will depend on their development and ability to contribute in the roles that Pingeton asks from them, being it offensive scoring, defensive hustle or as a utility player.
This is Robin Pingeton's fourth year and she's brought the program back from a downward spiral after Cindy Stein, but as the chart below shows, they're improving and while Mizzou may be a football school that pretended to be a basketball school for a quarter century, I think you can attract a lot of fans with her program.
|2012-13||17-15 (.531)||WNIT First Round|
|3 Seasons||43-51 (.457)|
Women's basketball isn't a revenue sport for Mizzou as far as I'm aware. 1,093 people attended last night's game and a good portion of them were SEMO fans. But I think Robin Pingeton has this team headed up because she is bringing in talented local basketball players who she can mold into an effective squad. She has the luxury of a lot of depth and not a lot of expectations, so she can sub players in an out according to how they are performing and how much confidence she has in them. I know it's only women's basketball and thus doesn't have the glamour or star power of the men's sport, but when you see what Pat Summitt accomplished at Tennessee and Geno Auriemma is doing at UConn, you can see a what a committed investment in excellence can reward you with.
Don't expect me to consistently cover games, even though I plan to attend at least one more. The next time I do cover a game, I hope to have some added input from a more experienced set of eyes.