On paper it was impossible.
But on Thursday night, playing without its best player and against the unanimous No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks, the Missouri Tigers made history.
The Missouri women took down top-ranked South Carolina 70-69 in overtime in an inspired, aggressive and all-time classic performance.
Lauren Hansen scored the game-winning layup with one-tenth of a second left to push the Tigers over the Gamecocks with a Herculean effort. Missouri held South Carolina scoreless the during final 3:34 of overtime.
It is Missouri’s first-ever program win over a No. 1 team.
The poise Missouri played with was similar to how the Tigers played against then-No. 5 Baylor earlier in the year. Missouri put all its lessons together on Thursday.
That was necessary as the Tigers were at a disadvantage hours before the game started.
Missouri entered the match-up short-handed, as six players missed the game, reportedly due to COVID-19 protocols. One of those six was All-SEC player and Tigers star Aijha Blackwell.
It tested the Tigers’ mettle, but Missouri didn’t back down from the start.
Missouri grabbed a 22-18 lead in the second quarter, as coach Robin Pingeton was tactical from the start with her substitutions. Kiya Dorroh and Sara-Rose Smith came off the bench first halfway through the first quarter.
Izzy Higgenbottom, one of the first subs Pingeton usually sends into the game, was unavailable as part of the COVID-19 protocols, too.
The Tigers held strong, owning a lead halfway through the third quarter. South Carolina tied the game heading into the fourth.
Here’s what we learned about the Tigers in their all-time win:
Pingeton coaches masterclass
Down her conference star, her key sixth woman and size against the No. 1 team in the nation, Pingeton coached her way to a 32-26 halftime lead against the Gamecocks and star counterpart Dawn Staley.
Pingeton had to be smart with her game plan and her substitutions, and it paid off as her players executed the plan well.
Missouri clogged the lane but forced South Carolina to shoot 3-pointers, and to the Gamecocks’ credit, they made their shots early. But South Carolina made only 3-of-10 heading into halftime.
When South Carolina roared back into the third quarter, Pingeton settled he team and put her trust in her players.
That showed with Mama Dembele hitting 3-pointers, Hayley Frank creating offense in every way, Hansen shooting confident shots and LaDazhia Williams holding her own against some of the best post players in the nation.
Tigers play game of their lives
Williams, against her former school and entering the second half of the final season of her college career, put up perhaps her best performance.
She ended the first half with 11 points and six rebounds, drew fouls and was the aggressor against All-American forward Aliyah Boston.
Dembele seemingly closed out the game with 3-pointers and clutch layups. Smith, playing out of position all year, used her experience guarding multiple positions to great use. Dorrah gave the Tigers key minutes.
Most importantly, Missouri was the aggressor on offense and defense. That defensive performance was key, as the Tigers were looking for improvement on that end from the beginning of the season.
As a team, Missouri held South Carolina to 38.2% shooting from the floor.
That was capped with Hansen’s game-winner, which will forever and deservingly live in Missouri lore for years.
If there ever was a time for the Tigers to play the best games of their lives, it was Thursday. They did that, period.
Mizzou fought through mismatch
The Gamecocks owned the rebounding battle, an area where it was clear South Carolina had the advantage from the start.
South Carolina had the size advantage with Victaria Saxton, Kamilla Cardoso and Boston, and owned the rebounding battle 42-31.
But when it most important, the Tigers made plays that mattered. This wasn’t just on the offensive end.
Missouri forced Saxton, Cardoso and Boston into foul trouble heading into the fourth quarter, and got the rebounds it needed to.
The saying “fortune favors the bold” was in play, and it paid off for Missouri.
The Tigers clogged the lane when South Carolina was on offense. The number of bodies in the lane messed with South Carolina’s offensive spacing, but the Gamecocks hurt themselves with missed layups and free throws.
Missouri dared South Carolina to hit 3-pointers, and the Gamecocks only hit 5-of-18.
Missouri was given a chance, and the Tigers took advantage. It came down to defense and clutch shots. Missouri made those shots.