Although they had a promising start to the 2021 season, the Missouri Tigers women’s basketball team saw a step up in competition on Thursday night: The beginning of SEC conference play pitted Missouri against the No. 1 team in the nation in South Carolina, who the Tigers had to go up against despite enormous adversity on their end. Adversity which was overcome, and which led to a stunning victory that has upset the balance of power in NCAA women’s basketball.
Despite having only eight players available due to COVID protocols and the loss of star guard Aijah Blackwell, Missouri pulled off a massive upset of South Carolina with a 70-69 overtime victory on Thursday. After forcing a close game and an overtime period, the Tigers were able to overcome a five-point deficit in overtime before Lauren Hansen scored a layup to make the winning basket with with less than a second left to play.
Missouri’s victory marked the program’s first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team, and came amid the adverse circumstances of having their squad depleted by positive COVID tests less than 24 hours before the game.
“We talked about (before the game) that great moments were created by great opportunities,” head coach Robin Pingeton said in a report by Lila Bromberg of the Kansas City Star. “And what a storyline this could be, with only eight players that could suit up. What an incredible storyline, so what are we gonna do with it?”
With players like Blackwell, Izzy Higginbottom, Micah Linthacum, and others missing due to COVID protocols, Hansen and Hayley Frank wound up leading the way for Mizzou with 21 points scored each. Shooting factored heavily into the Tigers’ upset, as they were shot 46.1 percent as a team from deep.
Adding to the improbability of Missouri’s victory over South Carolina was the fashion in which it occurred: Hansen’s game-winning bucket was the first go-ahead bucket to beat a No. 1-ranked team in the final five seconds of a game since 2018, when Arike Ogunbowale made such a shot for Notre Dame to beat UConn in the Final Four.