Sierra Michaelis ended up being in the right spot at the right time for Missouri.
The senior guard was all alone under the basket and made the game-winning shot on a putback off an Amber Smith miss with 0.6 seconds remaining to give No. 6 seed Missouri a 66-64 win over No. 11 South Florida Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Michaelis had 13 of her 16 points in the second half as Missouri (22-10) rallied from a 38-25 halftime deficit. It is the first time in program history they have won tournament games in consecutive seasons.
"I don't really remember much about the play," Michaelis said. "We executed the play just like it was drawn up. I was just there."
Missouri had 11 of their 13 offensive rebounds in the second half and also had a 20-12 advantage in second-chance points. The Tigers' defense also held USF to 7 of 24 shooting from the field in the second half.
"We switched on the lob pass and we were right there to contest the first shot," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "Unfortunately we weren't there for the rebound and we could only watch."
Lindsey Cunningham had 13 points, including four 3-pointers, and Sophie Cunningham 12 for the Tigers, who have won 11 of their last 14 games.
"I love the way we responded at halftime. We dug in on defense and kept them off the boards," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.
Missouri scored the first seven points of the third quarter as part of a 12-3 run. It would trail 46-43 at the end of the quarter.
The Tigers would eventually tie it at 50 on a Michaelis layup with 7:59 remaining. Kitija Laksa's three-point play gave the Bulls (24-9) the lead again before the Tigers took the lead on a 12-3 run.
"I told our team that the first five minutes of the third quarter were going to be crucial and we didn't end up scoring," Fernandez said.
Missouri led 64-61 before Laska tied it with a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left. Michaelis then hit a layup with less than a second remaining to give Missouri the win.
Arianda Pujol scored 20 points for South Florida with 16 coming in the first half. Laksa added 19.
South Florida: Considering that the Bulls came into the season with only one returning starter, getting to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season should be considered a successful year. Fernandez will have most of his team returning next season, which should make them a team to watch again. This was the third straight year the Bulls were in the 6 vs. 11 game, but they were the sixth seed the past two seasons.
Missouri: The Tigers are second in the nation in free throw accuracy at 80.3 percent. They made their first 10 in Friday's game but were 2 of 4 in the fourth quarter. They remain on pace to break the program (76.3 percent) and SEC single-season records (78.1 percent by Georgia in 2006).
The Bulls fell to 20-2 on the season when leading at halftime while the Tigers improved to 6-4 when trailing at the half. ... Maria Jespersen had 17 rebounds, which is the most by a USF player in an NCAA Tournament game. Alisia Jenkins had the old mark of 13, which was set in a first-round game last season against Colorado State. ... Missouri's Cierra Porter also had 11 points and 12 rebounds for her 12th double-double this season.
HE SAID IT
"Everybody is going to remember the last possession but there were 75 other ones that we could have done differently. All in all, with everything this group has been through, this one is definitely going to hurt," Fernandez said.