Missouri State Lady Bears' season ends with NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 loss to Stanford

Wyatt D. Wheeler
Springfield News-Leader

SAN ANTONIO — For the second straight NCAA Tournament, Stanford has ended one of the great seasons in Lady Bears history.

Missouri State saw its season come to an end in an 89-62 loss to No. 1 overall seed Stanford in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament's Sweet 16 on Sunday afternoon at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Stanford was responsible for ending the Lady Bears' Cinderella run in the 2019 Sweet 16. Now the Cardinal is responsible for ending the season for one of the great teams in the history of the storied Lady Bears program.

MSU LADY BEARS NCAA TOURNAMENT COVERAGE

The Lady Bears' season ends with the program's fifth-ever Sweet 16 appearance coming after an undefeated run through the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season — a Missouri State first.

Missouri State's Brice Calip gets past Stanford's Agnes Emma-Nnopu during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Sweet 16 round of the Women's NCAA tournament Sunday, March 28, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

In two years under head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton, the Lady Bears are 49-7 as she's elevated the program and has cemented herself as one of the top, young head coaches in the country.

Stanford showed why it's considered the top team in the country early and often. 

After Abby Hipp scored the game's opening points, Stanford responded with a 15-1 run to take a commanding lead. Cardinal star Kiana Williams scored seven points over the stretch with Anna Wilson adding a 3-pointer.

Lady Bears senior forward Abi Jackson kept the score respectable by scoring seven points in the first quarter to keep the game within eight at the end of one. 

Stanford's Jana Van Gytenbeek battles for the ball with Missouri State's Abby Hipp during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Sweet 16 round of the Women's NCAA tournament Sunday, March 28, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Stanford's quick guards kept their foot on the gas in the second quarter as they built a comfortable lead. Wilson went on a 5-0 run by herself to get the Cardinal lead up to 14. Stanford, one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the nation, went 7-of-16 from beyond the arc in the first half. 

Missouri State struggled from the floor with its starters finishing the first half with a combined 1-of-17 from the field. The Cardinal shot 43.9 percent, outrebounded MSU 27-21 and created nine turnovers en route to a 49-26 lead at halftime.

To start the second half, Stanford hit 3's on back-to-back possessions and the Lady Beras didn't get their second shot to fall until there was 4:24 left in the third. By that time, the Cardinal had already built their lead up to as many as 29.

Stanford's Francesca Belibi shoots past Missouri State's Abi Jackson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Sweet 16 round of the Women's NCAA tournament Sunday, March 28, 2021, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The Lady Bears shot 3-of-17 in the third quarter while the Cardinal continued to knock down its 3-pointers. Another five 3's gave the Cardinal a 71-37 lead after three.

Missouri State didn't fold in the fourth quarter — even though the game was too far out of reach. Starters remained in and attempted to slow down the Stanford guards. Elle Ruffridge added four 3's with Hipp and Jasmine Franklin adding buckets of their own. 

Brice Calip hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 to go before Agugua-Hamilton took a timeout. The seniors on the floor were given hugs and a standing ovation from the Missouri State-faithful as the season neared its close.

Ruffridge finished the game with 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Jackson added 11 with Calip scoring nine. The Lady Bears shot 31.3 percent to Stanford's 46.5 while finishing 15-of-32 from beyond the arc. Williams scored 16 with Wilson adding 

When the final buzzer sounded and the game was over, so was the Lady Bears' season — one of the great seasons that won't soon be forgotten.

Wyatt D. Wheeler is a reporter and columnist with the Springfield News-Leader. You can contact him at 417-371-6987, by email at wwheeler@news-leader.com or Twitter at @WyattWheeler_NL. You can subscribe to his free "Bears Beat" newsletter on News-Leader.com. He's also the co-host of Sports Talk on Jock Radio weekdays from 4-6 p.m.