Women's Basketball: Missouri Tigers
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- There was one other time that came to mind when Missouri sophomore guard Morgan Eye was asked about having such a red-hot hand.
“Well, I remember in P.E. class one time,” Eye said, “I was playing against some guys, and I just kept sinking shots. After awhile, they kind of got mad and just stopped guarding me.”
Auburn’s players now know how that feels. In a battle of Tigers on Sunday afternoon at Mizzou Arena, the blue-and-orange cats tried a variety of things to stop the black-and-gold cats from behind the arc. As it turned out, not guarding them at all might have been just as effective.
Mizzou, in just its second Southeastern Conference game, made its way into the league record book as it got its first SEC victory. Missouri hit an SEC-record 18 3-pointers -- on 36 attempts -- in an 82-76 win, with 11 of those coming from Eye, who had 33 points.
Her individual tally was one short of both the NCAA Division I and SEC records for a game, but it is the most for an SEC player against a fellow league opponent. LSU’s Cornelia Gayden made 12 treys against Jackson State in 1995. The most previous by an SEC team was 17, by Mississippi in 1999 and South Carolina in 1994.
It’s not as if Auburn (12-3) should have been surprised that Eye was lighting them up. The 5-foot-9 Eye came into Sunday’s game leading the SEC in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage. Her numbers after an 11-of-18 day from long range are now 64 3-pointers and 46.7 percent.
“We were switching on everything,” said Terri Williams-Flournoy, who’s in her first season at Auburn after eight years at Georgetown. “But their offense keeps you spread out and they shoot it quick.
“I had Sugar Rodgers for three years [at Georgetown.] If Sugar got 'on,' there was nothing you could do to stop her. [Eye] is just a flat-out shooter. She could have shot it with her eyes closed.”
Maybe that’s something Eye might have tried while out practicing on her court at home in a bean field. Yeah, the back story on Eye is awesome.
She is from Montrose, Mo., a town of around 380 people that’s about a 2½-hour drive southwest of Columbia. Her dad is a farmer, and her high school graduating class was made up of 12 people. In other words, she had as many senior classmates as she had 3-pointers on Sunday.
“It was K-through-12,” Eye said of the entire school. “Sometimes, we’d have over 100 kids total, I think. But then if somebody moved ”
Eye didn’t really play club basketball, per se, although she and a group of girls she grew up with competed in some Midwestern tournaments. They were good enough to lead Montrose High to the Class 1 state championship in Missouri when Eye was a junior. They lost by one point in the state semifinals her senior year.
How many Division I schools recruited Eye?
“This is the only one,” Eye said, chuckling, in reference to Missouri. “It came down to either Mizzou or Drury (a Division II school in Springfield, Mo.).”
Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton actually didn’t even get a chance to see Eye play in person until December of her senior year in high school, after the early-signing period. She offered Eye a scholarship right away. Pingeton, who previously was head coach at Illinois State and honed some of her offensive philosophy as an Iowa State assistant, certainly knows what to do with 3-point shooters.
“This kid has brought me to tears a couple of times in a positive way,” Pingeton said of the the hard-working Eye, who actually doesn’t start for the Tigers but is tied with Bri Kulas as the team’s top scorer (14.2 ppg). “I am really proud of her. She is such a great team player -- 100 percent committed to what is on the front of her jersey.”
Eye -- who says one of her hobbies is taking her dog, Copper, for rides in her truck -- doesn’t seem to have any weird, obsessive-compulsive rituals about how many shots she has to make every day in practice. Suffice to say, she makes plenty. She reads defenses, effectively uses screens, and has a quick release.
During the game, she didn’t realize how many 3’s she had -- it was a tight contest in which both teams made runs. But she acknowledged a couple times late in the game, she had to grin a little when yet another 3-pointer swished for Mizzou, 12-4.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling -- just overwhelming confidence,” Eye said of being in the “zone” as a shooter. “You just let it fly. My teammates did an awesome job feeding me the ball, and were just screening and screening for me.
“I’d say if I had a 'sweet' spot, it would be the right wing. But, really, I’ll throw it up from anywhere.”
Auburn knows that now. Rest of the SEC? Be forewarned.