Liz Smith's Career Night Helps Tigers Win Seventh Straight
COLUMBIA -- Senior forward Liz Smith had a career night as Mizzou women's basketball closed out its seven-game homestand with a 69-55 win over Murray State on Thursday night at Mizzou Arena. Smith tallied her first career double-double with 19 points and 11 boards, both career-highs, and she led the Tigers in scoring for the first time in her career as Mizzou extended its win streak to seven straight games.
Aside from Smith, junior Bri Kulas did most of the damage for the Tigers as she tallied 13 points, marking the eighth straight game that she has reached double-figures scoring. In fact, those two were a key reason why Mizzou was able to outscore Murray State in the paint, 34-20, in the win. The play of the Tiger bigs was key as Mizzou connected on just 6-of-25 3-pointers, their lowest during their seven-game homestand and their lowest since hitting just five against Green Bay on Nov. 23 in Cancun.
Morgan Eye cored all eight of her points in the win during the second half, including a pair of critical three-pointers as the Tigers made their run to pull away. Freshman point guard Lianna Doty tallied 10 points and two assists in the win and Kyley Simmons also turned in a great performance with eight points, four assists and three rebounds.
The win wraps up a season-long seven-game homestand for the Tigers. Mizzou went 7-0 in the homestand and boasted a 27.7 point average margin of victory in those games. The Tigers averaged 86.3 points per game in the homestand as well.
Mizzou struggled in the early stages of the first half, connecting on just two of its first nine 3-pointers while Murray State took an 18-16 lead at the under-12 timeout. The Tigers also struggled from the line in the early stages, hitting just two of six free throws, but still only trailed by two at that point. Murray State extended its lead to 22-16 but Smith scored six straight points and Kulas added a layup as Mizzou went on an 11-1 run to open a 27-23 lead. Murray State narrowed the lead to just one and actually had a 1-and-1 and three shots at layups to take the lead at the half, but the Tiger defense stood tall as they took a 29-28 lead into the break.
The Tigers outscored Murray State, 16-10, in the paint in the first half as they shot 64.2-percent from 2-point range. The struggles for Mizzou in the first half came in the area that is usually its strength, the 3-point line. In fact, Mizzou hit just 2-of-15 shots from distance in the first half, its worst in a half since going 1-of-10 from distance in the second half of the Missouri State game (Dec. 6).
Coming out of the locker room, Mizzou opened the second half with a 7-0 run in the first 2:37 and took a 36-28 lead before Murray State even scored. But, MSU countered with an 8-0 run to even the score at 36 all after a 3-pointer from Mariah Robinson. Smith then took over, converting 3-point plays on back-to-back possessions following Robinson's 3-pointer to reopen a six-point lead for Mizzou.
Murray State tried to keep it close following Smith's 3-point plays, but Eye and Kulas combined to hit three 3-pointers as Mizzou opened a 10-point lead at 51-41, prompting a timeout. But the Racers got back into the game after scoring five straight points following the stoppage of play and the score stayed put at 51-46 at the under-12 timeout. The Racers then got a breakaway layup after a turnover by Eye to cut the lead to just three at 51-48.
But the Tigers pulled away late, going on an 11-2 run to take a 62-50 lead at the five-minute mark and closed the game out with a 69-55 win. Mizzou will be back in action at Memphis on Dec. 29.