St. Louis, MO — Records are meant to be broken. Streaks always have to come to an end, and tonight, both happened. Missouri thought they had their last non-conference game against the St. Louis Lady Billikens in the bag on Wednesday night.
But 10 second half three’s, and a 34 fourth quarter (62% shooting), gave St. Louis the ammo they needed to finish strong and pull off the historic victory — this is the first time the Billikens have conquered the Tigers.
“I said ladies this is happening, keep believing,” said St. Louis University coach Lisa Stone on her team’s outstanding comeback.
Fans from all over the Missouri area, and beyond, filled Chaifetz Arena Wednesday night to cheer on an exciting in-state rivalry between the Missouri Tigers and the St. Louis Lady Billikens.
Both teams came out of the gates hot, battling back and forth on the boards, while holding each other to just 4 points for a majority of the first period.
It wasn’t until the Tigers, or should I say, Sophie Cunningham, found her stride and stretched Missouri’s lead from a 19-14 lead at the end of the first, to far as 16 points against the Lady Billikens in the second.
The sophomore sensation drained three of her five three-point attempts and went 5-10 in field goals, resulting in a team-high of 13 points for the 6’1 guard in the first half alone.
While Cunningham was on fire, St. Louis went cold, as they suffered an untimely scoring spell — the Lady Billikens were stuck at 17 points for what seemed like an eternity. But senior forward Erin Nelson sank a critical three-pointer, helping St. Louis marginally cut the deficit, dwindling it down to 13 before halftime.
But, as the 3rd quarter began, it was like a new team stepped out of the locker room for the Lady Billikens.
Sadie Stipanovich took the game into her own hands, scoring 11 points in the third quarter alone, helping keep the Lady Billikens in the game against Missouri, who in spite of St. Louis’ run maintained their double-digit lead of 15 heading into the final stanza.
And on most nights, this would have been the final nail in the coffin, as Missouri has completely dominated this rivalry, never losing a game to their in-state foe.
However, tonight was very different. The Lady Billikens weren’t going to go down without a fight, and little did the Tigers know, St. Louis had a hot fourth quarter up their sleeves.
Back-to-back-to-back threes for the Lady Billikens in the opening minutes of the fourth, cut the deficit back to single digits for the first time since the first half, stunning the Tigers, and gave St. Louis the additional life — and force — they needed to pull ahead, which they did — and then some.
“We’ve yet this season to really put 40 minutes together,” said Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton. “We didn’t have that killer instinct, that I think great teams have.”
Led by Kerri McMahan, who put up five straight points in the fifth minute of the period to tie it 55 all, St. Louis continued to stick it to the now frazzled Tigers, knocking down shot after shot, turning the tables on Missouri, and extending their newfound lead.
St. Louis’s hot hands and determination to win, coupled with Missouri’s rocky foul trouble, completely changed the dynamic of the last 10 minutes.
The Tigers were deflated, and just couldn’t quite get the game back under their control, not only completely squelching away the lead for good, they ended up trailing by double figures.
St. Louis did the impossible, not just with the comeback, but by finally slaying the “giant” of their state, Missouri, they made history. The Lady Billikens walked away proudly with a 72-61 win, their first in the last 20 match-ups against the Tigers.
Missouri will kick off the New Year with their first SEC contest against the Georgia Bulldogs, at home, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m ET. St. Louis will play Lipscomb on Dec. 29 at 7:30 p.m ET.