COLUMBIA, Mo. — With just two points in the first 6:30, the Missouri women's basketball team needed a spark.
Enter Izzy Higginbottom.
The freshman came off the bench and had six points in a span of 27 seconds, with a layup and an and-one 3-pointer from the wing, that started a 17-0 run late in the first quarter that put Missouri in control in its 75-47 win Sunday against Idaho State at Mizzou Arena. Higginbottom finished with a game-high 18 points in 24 minutes.
"When she comes on its just instant offense," Missouri guard Lauren Hansen said.
All 17 of those points at the end of the first quarter were from the bench, with Sarah Rose-Smith and Ladazhia Williams coming off the bench with Higginbottom to spark the team. Missouri (4-0) finished with 43 points from its bench in a balanced scoring attack, which has the Tigers with their best start to a season since 2015-16, Sophie Cunningham's freshman year where the Tigers started 13-0 and made the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri had six players with seven points or more, while Hansen had 15 and Smith added 10 to join Higginbottom in double figures.
"I think what makes this team special is that — well there's a lot of things but just speaking offensively — is that on any given night you've got a lot of kids that have got some offensive firepower and you never know who it's going to be on what night," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.
The starters got out to a slow start offensively with the Tigers starting 1-for-9 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. The team also had four turnovers in the first five minutes and Idaho State lead 4-2 with 4:58 left in the first. Pingeton called a timeout.
"I probably just challenged them for more," she said. "We're so much better than what we were playing, and I just didn't feel like we were the aggressors and it was just a gentle reminder that we needed to be who we were and play a little bit more aggressive on both ends."
Then, Missouri had 35 points during the final 13:30 of the first half to put the game out of reach. A full-court press, with Rose-Smith using her 6-foot-1 frame at the point of it, forced multiple turnovers that gave the Tigers easy buckets to kick-start their offense.
"She's a high-energy kid," Pingeton said. "She's bouncy. She's rangy. She's pretty darn athletic.
"We really haven't worked a lot on that pressure, so it was kind of trial and error tonight, and we liked what we saw and so we stayed with it."
In the second and third quarters, Missouri's outside shooting took off. The Tigers finished 12-for-28 from 3 and shot 44.1 percent from the floor. The team pushed the lead further with a 23-point third quarter where they were 9-of-12 from the field and the team's motion offense produced multiple open looks.
"The thing with our motion offense, you've got to move the ball, move people, and get ball reversals, and we were getting some really good looks in that third quarter," Pingeton said.
Then the team was able to take its foot off the gas a little bit in the fourth after its defense allowed just 22 points in the first three quarters. Idaho State also finished with 21 turnovers.
Jefferson City graduates Micah and Sarah Linthacum each got minutes in the fourth quarter for Missouri. Micah hit a 3 from the wing on her only shot attempt to finish with three points in seven minutes, while Sarah played eight minutes.
Missouri plays Troy (3-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.