Tigers Knock Off the No. 14 Gamecocks
COLUMBIA - Bri Kulas and Liz Smith turned in impressive performances on senior night, carrying Mizzou (16-13, 5-10) to a 65-58 win over No. 14 South Carolina Thursday (Feb. 28) night at Mizzou Arena. Kulas accounted for a career-high 26 points to accompany 11 rebounds, and Smith tallied eight points with five boards. Liene Priede hit double-digits with 10 points in her final home game as a Tiger, and Sydney Crafton hit 11, including a clutch layup late in the game. The strong team effort led to the Tiger's second victory in a row over ranked opponents, previously knocking off then-No. 10 Tennessee.
South Carolina's latest lead in the game came at 11-10, with 12:24 remaining in the first half. In a hot-shooting performance by the Tigers, the team shot 53.5 percent from the floor and held the Gamecocks to just 32.8 percent shooting. The strong play allowed Mizzou to overcome a turnover deficit of 16-5, largely because Missouri outscored South Carolina 34-14 in the paint.
Crafton broke the ice in the contest before the Gamecocks stormed back with five straight points to take a three-point lead, but three straight buckets from Kulas put the Tigers on top by three. Back-to-back treys sandwiched around a Priede layup gave the Gamecocks the advantage, but Morgan Eye hit from deep to give Mizzou a 13-11 lead at the under-12 timeout.
After South Carolina tied it, Kulas, Priede and Smith powered a 7-0 run that ended with a Gamecock layup, making the score 20-15 in favor of the Tigers. Lianna Doty answered with a bucket of her own, but a run by South Carolina brought the game back to within three at 24-23. Another Kulas bucket gave the Tigers a three-point lead with two minutes remaining in the half, but the Gamecocks responded with a 3 to tie the game at 26 with 20 seconds remaining in the half. Kulas drew a foul with 3.5 seconds remaining and connected on both free throws to give Mizzou a 28-26 lead going into the locker room.
Both teams came out hot in the second half, trading buckets to keep it a three-point game with Crafton carrying the Tigers in the early running. Priede made a layup with a foul to push the lead to six, and she hit again after a Gamecock bucket to keep the separation until South Carolina nailed a 3 to make the score 39-36.
Kulas and Smith took over for Mizzou by scoring the team's next 15 points, with Kulas connecting for nine as the Tigers clung to a three-point lead, 54-51. Eye then drained a big 3 to push the Tiger lead to 57-51 at the under-4 media timeout.
The Gamecocks came back quickly and hit a three after the break, cutting the Tiger advantage to just three. Crafton answered by connecting on a layup with contact to push the lead to five, and Kulas iced the game with an "and-one" layup to push Mizzou ahead by eight with less than a minute remaining.
The Tigers next head to Tuscaloosa, Ala. to take on the Crimson Tide on Sunday (March 3). After that, the Tigers will head to Duluth, Ga. to compete in the SEC tournament.