Women’s basketball: Tigers fall to Michigan in WNIT Sweet 16

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By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Thursday, March 26-

In their 33rd and final game of the season, the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team lost to the Michigan Wolverines 65-55 in the Sweet 16 of the Women’s NIT.

Sophomore Jordan Frericks had a game high 14 points to go along with her nine rebounds, but a 13-2 second half run fueled the Wolverines to victory behind their home crowd in the Crisler Center.

It was the first ever meeting between the two sides on Thursday night, and with each team playing some of its best basketball of the season, it set up an intriguing matchup with the winner to face Southern Mississippi.

Junior Morgan Stock was on a roll in the first half as she scored 10 points, including a buzzer-beater three to give the visiting Tigers a 33-28 lead at halftime. In the second half, however, the 6’1” junior was limited to only three points in the losing effort.

Senior Morgan Eye has also been taking the WNIT by storm from beyond the arc, averaging 20.5 points per game in the tournament. The three-point specialist dropped a season-best nine treys against Kansas State in the second round, but was pretty much a non-factor against Michigan with only two threes on the night.

It was a tug-of-war match throughout the game as both sides traded the lead, but the Wolverines pulled away in the second half behind nearly 50 percent shooting. Michigan also had five players in double digits compared to Mizzou’s two, making it a virtually insurmountable task in stopping all Wolverine scorers down the stretch.

Overall, the Tigers stayed true to their game plan, driving and dishing out to the open shooter. But the 13 team assists were overlooked by an atrocious six for 27 shooting from deep.

Out-rebounding their opponents by over 15 per game, the Tigers also couldn’t create enough second chance opportunities against a disciplined Michigan side in the second half.

Missouri rode Frericks’ 14 points and nine boards to stay close distance for most of the second half, but even the sophomore couldn’t replicate her impressive 17 points and 11 rebounds per game averages on the road, either.

Defensively, the Tigers came into the night with seventh best shooting percentage against in the NCAA, at 34.8 percent. Moreover, the team has won 16 out of 20 games when keeping opponents below that mark, but the Wolverines’ charity stripe success neutralized the stingy Mizzou defense in the end.

Michigan center Cyesha Goree claimed player of the game honors with 12 points, 14 rebounds and three momentum-shifting blocks down the stretch.

Unfortunately, the season came to an end on Thursday night for the Tigers, who finished with an overall 19-14 (7-9) record. More disappointing for head coach Robin Pingeton’s squad is the potential the team had to make a final four run in the tournament.

Despite the poor shooting in Ann Arbor, Missouri can still take pride in the most successful postseason in over a decade. The Tigers entered the SEC Tournament riding a conference-best four game winning streak and won two games in the WNIT in emphatic fashion. This season also marked the best run since the Tigers joined the SEC.