COLUMBIA, MO - While the mid-Missouri area was experiencing frigid cold temperatures, following a record ice storm, the Missouri Tigers were heating it up in the Mizzou Arena on Monday night in a close second half matchup against West Coast foe, UC Riverside.
What appeared to be an easy win for the Tigers early in the first quarter, turned into a nail biter four-point game in the final minutes, as the Highlanders ditched their tired legs and forced Missouri to fight for the win up until their final possession.
Led by Cierra Porter with a whopping 26 points, 12 rebounds and Sierra Michaelis with 10 points, 11 rebounds, the Tigers were able to sneak away with a hard fought 68-62 victory against the relentless UC Riverside squad.
Missouri caught the Highlanders with cold feet at tip off, creating a quick 16-0 gap and holding them to zero points until the fifth minute of the opening quarter. Shots were falling from all over the court for the Tigers, with Sophie Cunningham and Porter both putting up quick double-digit points early in the half and leading by as many as 16 points.
Missouri hounded the Highlanders, defensively, too, collecting 13 rebounds, 12 defensive, and holding them to zero buckets for more than four minutes of the first quarter and a mere 22% shooting for the quarter.
UC Riverside’s failure to connect shots in the first 10 minutes of the game, led to an undeniable uphill battle in the second quarter for the Highlanders, who just couldn’t quite catch up to the red-hot Tiger team.
That despite the impressive first half efforts by UC Riverside’s standout senior, Simone DeCoud, who tallied 10 points for the Highlanders in the first half as her team trailed the Tigers 41-29 going into intermission.
The Highlanders found their mojo at halftime and came out fighting in the third quarter, cutting the once 10-point deficit as low as seven points. The Tigers responded to UC Riverside’s aggression with their claws, which resulted in eight fouls for not only the Tigers, but them as well.
An unfortunate technical foul on Sophie Cunningham that sent her straight to the bench for the remainder of the game took a blow to Missouri's lineup.
The Highlanders capitalized on Cunningham’s absence making it a two-possession game in the final minutes of the contest. A few crucial mistakes by UC Riverside, including a turnover in the last minute of the game by Clemence Lefebvre, cost them the comeback, however, resulting in Missouri’s 32nd non-conference home win, raising their overall record this season to 10-3.
The Tigers will make a short two hour and 124-mile trek down Highway 70 Wednesday to take on the SLU Lady Billikens for one last non-conference game before their first SEC contest on New Year’s Day versus the 7-4 Georgia Bulldogs.