Tigers Pull Away in Second Half for Win
COLUMBIA -- Newcomer Bri Kulas led the way for Mizzou (1-0) as they overcame a slow start to pull away from St. Louis in the second half, winning their season opener by a final score of 67-51 on Friday night in Mizzou Arena. Kulas, who shined in the exhibition contest against Lindenwood, posted a game-high 18 points for Missouri as the Tigers took the Battle for Missouri against the in-state rival Billikens. Freshman Maddie Stock also was impressive in her first regular season collegiate game, posting 11 points.
Liene Priede opened the scoring by hitting one of two free throws that resulted from a foul while she was attacking the rim for a layup. St. Louis quickly answered with a layup, taking an early 2-1 lead. Kulas then stepped up for the Tigers, making a layup to regain the lead, but the Billikens hit a pull-up jumper to regain the lead at the under-16 timeout, 4-3. St. Louis scored first after the break too, building their lead to 6-3. Kulas then sunk two straight threes, giving the Tigers a 9-6 lead. After a SLU three tied it, Stock connected on a layup to give the Tigers an 11-9 advantage.
After the under-12 timeout, St. Louis hit three of four free throws, taking advantage of sound offensive rebounding to take a 14-12 lead. Stock responded with a three, and Lianna Doty took advantage of a turnover by converting a transition layup for a 16-12 lead. Sydney Crafton added to the Missouri lead with a layup off a brilliant entry pass, making is 18-12. St. Louis quickly responded, though, hitting two free throws on their next possession before the under-8 timeout.
Stock scored first when play resumed, hitting a three from the corner to boost the Mizzou lead to 21-14, but St. Louis answered with a three of their own. Crafton then made a layup on the Tigers' next possession, and Kulas nailed a wide-open three to put Mizzou ahead 26-17. SLU responded with seven straight points, all from the free throw line, cutting the deficit to three. Darian Saunders ended the run with a layup off of an offensive rebound, putting Mizzou up 28-24, and then she added a free throw to put build the lead to five. After two Billiken free throws, Morgan Eye connected on a three pointer to build the Tigers lead to 32-26. St. Louis connected on a three with seven seconds remaining in the half, making the score 32-29 favoring the Tigers as the teams headed to the locker room.
St. Louis opened the scoring in the second half with a two, but the Tigers answered with back-to-back threes by Stock and Kyley Simmons to put the Tigers back up seven, 38-31. St. Louis came out of their timeout by hitting a jumper in the lane, but Saunders answered with a mid-range jumper of her own. St. Louis answered minutes later with a bucket to make it 40-35, but Eye hit another triple to build the Tiger lead to eight. Kulas then made a shot from the paint to put the Tigers ahead by 10 at the under-12 timeout.
It was Mizzou coming out hot again after the break, with Eye and Bree Fowler hitting back-to-back threes to build the lead to 16. Crafton hit a jumper after a SLU free throw, making the score 53-36 at the under-8 timeout. The teams traded buckets after the break, with SLU getting the better of the exchange as they cut the lead to 55-43. After a timeout by Missouri, Kulas hit another jumper to put the Tigers up 14, but that was quickly matched by the Billikens on the other end.
After the under-4 timeout, Saunders made a shot that was answered by SLU, but Kulas hit a three to tack on to her game-high total of 18 points and put Mizzou up 62-47. Doty hit a three to add to the Tiger lead, making it 65-47. SLU hit two free throws, and Doty connected twice from the line with 15 seconds remaining before the Billikens made another shot to make the final score 67-51.
The Tigers' next game is against Chicago State, a home game at 7 p.m. on Monday.