COLUMBIA, Mo. - Mizzou Women's basketball (19-6, 6-6) pulled away late to defeat Alabama (14-11, 3-9) 63-52 Thursday night at Mizzou Arena. Sierra Michaelis (Mercer, Mo.) led the Tigers with 14 points and four 3-pointers. Sophie Cunningham (Columbia, Mo.) added 12 points and became the second-highest scoring freshman in program history.
The Tigers ended the game on a 20-8 run to close out the Crimson Tide. The victory marks the first time in school history that Mizzou has defeated Alabama at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers reserves outscored the Alabama bench 28-6. Redshirt sophomore Kayla McDowell (Cincinnati, Ohio) contributed to the bench scoring by tying her season-high with 11 points while shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor. It was the first time in her college career to shoot 100 percent from the field.
Three other tigers joined Cunningham and McDowell with double-digit scoring nights. Jordan Frericks (Quincy, Ill.) scored 10 while Cierra Porter finished with 11.
Frericks and Porter also lead the team in rebounds, collecting six each.
The Tigers moved the ball well in the first half, collecting 10 assists on 13 field goals made as a team. They accomplished this while only committing three turnovers, the fewest this season during the first half.
For the game, Mizzou shot 39 percent (21-for-54) from the floor and 75 percent (15-for-20) from the foul line. Alabama finished at 36 percent (16-for-45) from the field and 70 percent (14-fror-20) from the free throw line.
Mizzou will return to the hardwood on Sunday, Feb. 14 as they host rival Arkansas at 2 p.m. CT on SEC Network Plus/WatchESPN.
For all the latest on Mizzou Women's Basketball, stay tuned to MUTigers.com and follow the team on Twitter (@MizzouWBB) and like the team on Facebook (Mizzou Women's Basketball) and Instagram (MizzouWBB).
Mizzou is now 4-3 all-time against Alabama. This marks the first time the Tigers have beat Alabama in Mizzou Arena. Sophie Cunningham now has 332 points, which is the second-highest total by a freshman in program history. Julie Helm sits atop that list with 515 points in 1996-97. Kayla McDowell tied her season-high with 11 points. She also scored 11 vs. SIU Edwardsville on Nov. 24, 2015. McDowell finished a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, marking the first time she has shot 100 percent from the field. This is the third time this season five Tigers have scored in double-digits. Mizzou is 18-2 when outrebounding the opponent. The Tigers had the fewest turnovers in the first half this season with three. The last time the Tigers had fewer than three turnovers in a half was on Feb. 22, 2015 against Vanderbilt. They tallied one that half. Morgan Stock made her 13th career start and first since Feb. 9, 2014 vs. Alabama. POSTGAME QUOTES
Head Coach Robin Pingeton
"I appreciate you guys being here. Obviously it was a good win for our team. I'm really happy for our girls. I think this was a really challenging game where you feel like your back is against the wall a little bit. Even though we still have a little bit of wiggle room, this was a really important game for us because it's on our home court and after dropping two tough games last week. I'm proud of the way the players bounced back. I thought we did a much better job taking care of the ball. I thought we really played some great team ball. Defensively I thought we did a nice job as well. I'm happy for the girls and we need to continue to build on this and continue to try and get better."
On Kayla McDowell...
"I thought Kayla played really well for us. I just felt like she played within the flow of our offense and I don't think she tried to force things. She had some good passes and good ball movement and some strong finishes at the rim. I thought this was by far her best game of the season, which is exciting to see. I know that earlier in the week when we sat her it was really hard on her. She's done things the right way. She has worked really hard. It was fun to see her out there having fun and having success. I think her knee is feeling better. They went through another PRP injection and took some time off with that meniscus. She's not having the swelling that she had been having. Sometimes with those ACLs and meniscuses you just never know when you are finally going to work yourself through it. She looks stronger in practice and looks like she is moving well. I feel like she's finally working herself through that."
On final minutes of game...
"I thought Sierra MIchaelis had a big shot there down the stretch. I thought the girls played with good poise though. The emphasis tonight was just to slow everything down and to play quick but not hurry. Tonight's message was slow down. Everything we do we just want to slow it down and really have a sense of urgency to value that ball. We started off in the first quarter and did a nice job of it. In the second quarter we had a few more and ended the game with 12. We had some open looks tonight that we didn't finish. I thought we went through a spell in that third quarter where we passed too much and it was almost like nobody was willing to step up and take the shot. I don't think it was because no one had the confidence to shoot it. I think it was because of what great ball movement we have been having and lets make that one more pass. We talked about that and we said we can't get on our heels. We want to stay aggressive offensively so other than that third quarter I thought we were really solid offensively and again tonight I thought we had a good defensive effort.
On importance of the win...
"I never really thought about if we lose. Going in to this game I wanted to find a way to get it done. I don't know that our backs were completely against the wall but it was getting closer. I think our girls knew that. When you look at the resume and the big picture of what we are trying to get done this season, the fact that we were at home after two tough losses. We didn't talk a lot about where people's emotions were but I think everyone has been around the sport long enough to know that this was, in some sense, a must win game for us if we wanted to get the big picture that we are looking at. It was not an absolute but it was one that we definitely needed."
On change in starters...
"It just felt like we needed something. Sierra Michaelis has been such a huge part of what we have been able to get done this year and continues to be a huge part of that. Our focus tonight was to slow things down and focus on execution and focus on taking care of the ball. We just needed something. We needed to shake something up. Although our defense has been pretty good, you look at the amount of turnovers and fouls that we have had in the last couple games that something had to give. We just felt like maybe we could grab her attention in making a change. Morgan Stock has been practicing really well and she has had some great games. I thought Alabama would come out of eth zone and that we could get her going early. We win as a team and lose as a team. These last two games certainly do not come down to Sierra Michaelis. We felt like going into game three we needed to shake it up a little bit."
On high fan attendance...
"We appreciate them so much. Obviously we are very thankful for the fans that have been with us throughout the course of the journey and we appreciate them brining out some of their friends and other people coming to check us out. We take it really personal. It's hard when we lose at home because we know how hard we have all worked to build up that fan support. Now that people are coming out you don't want to lose them. It's an extra incentive for us. We just want to do it for them and give back to them. It's been a lot of fun and they make a huge impact with the energy that they bring. When you travel on the road in the SEC these are the environments that we are playing in so it's kind of fun to have teams come in and be taken aback a little by the support we are getting here at Mizzou. We really appreciate everyone and can't thank them enough for what they have helped us accomplish this year. Hopefully we are not done and we look forward to having them back out on Sunday. I think when there is a buzz and you don't feel like you play at your very best it is gut wrenching but they have been great all year and they have been consistent for us. Sometimes during those holiday games, you get the chance to bring in some high school teams throughout the state so that adds to the attendance. We really appreciate what we have and want to continue to build on it.
Junior guard Sierra Michaelis
On ball movement...
"That was a big emphasis on today's game, getting the ball swung and not trying to do it on our own. They were playing zone and we love zone."
On the win...
"It was very uplifting for the team. We want more now. Coming off of two losses, we wanted to get his one."
Redshirt sophomore forward Kayla McDowell
On her game tonight...
It was definitely felt fun to be out there. The way that we played was really fun to be a part of. It felt great to be out there and felt in-rhythm.
On her injury...
"It was about a week of doing nothing. Our doctors are great about saying it's unpredictable after surgery, but to keep being patient. I didn't love being patient, but now I feel a lot better."