When the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks went up 69-64 on the Missouri Tigers with 3:35 remaining in overtime on Thursday night at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo., it seemed as if the Tigers’ incredible upset bid was going to come up short. However, Missouri went on a 6-0 run to close the game and won 70-69 on a Lauren Hansen layup that was just soft enough off the backboard to catch the front of the rim and fall in with 0.1 seconds left.
An Aliyah Boston alley-oop layup off the ensuing inbound did not get off before the buzzer, allowing the Tigers to officially complete a victory over an undefeated team that had six wins over teams ranked in the Top 15 at the time, including two over teams that were No. 2 at the time. Missouri cracked a code that even current Top 10 teams Stanford, NC State and Maryland couldn't crack and did it without its best player in Aijha Blackwell, who missed the game due to health and safety protocols. The Tigers had eight available players, played seven and had a main rotation of five.
The win was Missouri’s first over a No. 1 team and gave it a 1-0 record to start SEC play. The Tigers are 12-2 overall and were a No. 9 seed in ESPN’s latest bracketology. They will now raise their projected seeding and their spot in the NET rankings, where they are 49th. South Carolina falls to 12-1 (0-1 SEC).
Phoenix Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham, who is Missouri’s all-time leading scorer, was in attendance and celebrated with the team on the court after the buzzer.
Redshirt senior guard Haley Troup put the Tigers in position to win when she rebounded a Destanni Henderson miss and was just barely able to keep herself in bounds to ensure Missouri gained possession. Hansen’s game-winner came on the ensuing possession. Troup injured her lower leg on the play and had to be carried off the court.
Hansen, a junior guard, finished with 21 points and seven rebounds and made a layup that cut Missouri’s deficit to 69-66 with 3:05 remaining. Hayley Frank, a junior forward who also had 21 points, made a layup that cut it to 69-68 with 48 ticks left. Boston, the frontrunner for national Player of the Year, had made a three to put the Gamecocks up 67-64 and teammate Victaria Saxton had followed with a layup.
Boston battled through contact to make a layup that tied the game at 64 with 21 seconds to go in regulation. Missouri had the opportunity to hold for a last shot, but turned the ball over on the ensuing inbound pass, giving South Carolina that same opportunity. Boston’s co-star, Zia Cooke, missed a floater off the back of the rim that would have won it at the buzzer of regulation.
A Frank mid-range make with 2:52 left in the fourth was key because it gave the Tigers a six-point lead, tied for their largest of the quarter. It came after a pump fake from beyond the arc and gave Missouri enough of a cushion to withstand the Gamecocks’ ensuing comeback. Two 3-pointers from Mama Dembele and one from Hansen earlier in the frame were also key.
Missouri won the second 21-14 to go up six at the break. South Carolina then tied the game heading into the fourth.
Frank was 7-of-8 from the field, 3-of-4 from distance and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe. LaDazhia Williams added 12 points and 12 rebounds to the winning cause, while Dembele finished with 11 points, three assists and two steals. Troup grabbed five boards, dished out a team-high four helpers and also had two steals.
Boston posted 17 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in defeat. Fellow big Kamilla Cardoso, a high profile transfer from Syracuse, scored a season-high 14 points to go along with eight boards off the bench. Her size at 6-foot-7 was difficult for Missouri to deal with. Henderson handed out a game-high seven assists to go along with seven points, while Brea Beal added seven points and 10 boards for the Gamecocks.
The Tigers gained a significant advantage at the free throw line, going 13-of-16 compared to South Carolina’s 5-of-9 effort. But even in defeat, the Gamecocks’ rebounding prowess shone through, especially on the offensive end where they outrebounded Missouri 20-6, leading to a 22-9 advantage in second chance points.