Published January 11, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Four nights after Missouri seemingly couldn't miss from 3-point range, the Tigers followed up their record-setting performance by misfiring from just about everywhere.
Missouri shot 19.7 percent Thursday night in an 84-39 loss to No. 9 Tennessee that showed how vulnerable the Tigers are when they're not connecting from beyond the arc.
"When you don't knock down shots, it makes for a long night," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "That's for sure."
Missouri (12-5, 1-2 SEC) had set an SEC record with 18 3-pointers Sunday in an 82-77 victory over Auburn and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc that day. Missouri headed into Thursday's game leading the nation with 10 3-pointers per game.
But the Tigers couldn't build on the momentum they established against Auburn.
Missouri shot 9 of 36 on 3-pointers and 4 of 30 from two-point range. Missouri's 36 3-point attempts were the most ever by a Tennessee opponent.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said she made sure to remind her players that Missouri was coming off a record-setting performance from 3-point range.
"When you have a team that shoots the 3-ball the way they do, they're never out of the game," Warlick said. "That was our No. 1 priority, not to let them shoot the 3-ball the way they do."
Missouri had to rely on the 3-pointer again Thursday because Tennessee made sure the Tigers got no opportunities near the basket. Missouri made just one bucket from inside the 3-point arc the entire first half.
"I just felt like we played without poise," Pingeton said. "It just felt like we played panicky at times. Absolutely give Tennessee a lot of credit. They're a great team. They have some great athletes. They're long. They're lanky. They're a great team, and I do feel like we had some open looks. We just played a little bit panicky on offense."
Morgan Eye led Missouri with 18 points while shooting 6 of 17 from 3-point range. Her 17 3-point attempts were the most by any women's player at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols' home floor since the 1986-87 season.
Eye had shot 11 of 18 on 3-pointers against Auburn, putting her one shy of the NCAA single-game record for 3-point baskets.
"I felt that I had a few girls chasing me hard off screens, and my teammates did a good job to just keep screening me," Eye said. "I still got some pretty good looks, I felt like, and I credit my teammates for that."
Missouri missed its first 11 shots from two-point range before Bri Kulas scored off an inbounds pass with 3:59 remaining until halftime. Tennessee center Isabelle Harrison and forward Bashaara Graves made sure Missouri rarely took an uncontested shot near the basket.
"We're such a presence in there, you know, it affects their shots," Harrison said.
Harrison scored 12 points, pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds and blocked four shots. Graves had 16 points and eight rebounds. Meighan Simmons scored a team-high 18 points and Taber Spani added 11 points for Tennessee (12-3, 3-0).
The Lady Vols built a 48-21 halftime advantage by scoring nearly at will in the first 14 minutes. Harrison almost had a double-double in the first half alone with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Both teams favor a fast pace, and the Lady Vols thrived on Missouri's willingness to run up and down the floor with them.
"That's the way we play every day," Pingeton said. "That's the way we'll continue to play."
Tennessee cooled off significantly from there. The Lady Vols scored just six points in the final 6 minutes of the first half and missed nine of their first 10 shots in the second, but Missouri's cold shooting prevented the Tigers from cutting the lead below 25 points.
After going 5 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half, Missouri was just 4 of 22 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. The Tigers continued firing away from 3-point range and could never get anything going inside the arc against a punishing Tennessee defense.
"The second half we knew that we were down, but we wanted to come back," Eye said. "It was about us. We wanted to play our game and get better. It was more about us than the scoreboard."