COLUMBIA — The Missouri women’s basketball team will face its stiffest test of the season when it faces No. 6 Baylor at Mizzou Arena today, but the Tigers have recently fared well against highly-ranked Baylor teams.
Two years ago the Bears came into Columbia as the defending national champions and riding a 30-game winning streak which MU ended with a 64-61 upset win. Last season, the Tigers had a chance to win in Waco, but junior guard Alyssa Hollins missed a jumper with three seconds left to cap a heartbreaking 71-70 loss.
“We beat them two years ago and we played them tough for 38 minutes last year,” said Hollins, who leads MU in scoring with 16.8 ppg. “We know we can hang with Baylor.”
While Hollins said the win over the Bears two years ago gives her some extra confidence that the Tigers can beat a highly ranked Baylor team again this season, Missouri coach Cindy Stein said she didn’t expect her team to gain much momentum from that win because only two players, Hollins and junior forward K-Kay Pickens, were on the team then and neither played in that game.
“The confidence of what we can do at home helps us, but a lot of these kids weren’t here so they don’t remember that,” Stein said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference Tuesday. “They didn’t experience that feeling so it does become a little tougher.”
That won’t be the case for the Bears. Four of their starters were on the team two years ago and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey made sure to remind her team of what happened the last time they stepped on the Mizzou Arena floor.
“All I need to remember and all this team needs to remember is that the last time we were in Columbia we were beaten,” Mulkey said.
Missouri freshman forward Shakara Jones remembers the game well.
“I did watch it on TV,” said Jones, a St. Charles native. “I remember Mizzou played really hard and really aggressive so I think going into the game this year we’re going to have to do the same thing.”
But it will take more than that to take down Baylor this time. The Bears are led by senior point guard Angela Tisdale, who was the Big 12 Player of the Week last week after scoring 35 points to lead Baylor to a 84-73 road win against Oklahoma. The Tigers will have to shut down Tisdale, who is seventh in the conference in scoring (15.5 ppg), but Stein said the biggest problem for the Tigers will be containing a balanced Baylor attack that has five scorers averaging more than 10 ppg.
“I keep looking for a weak spot on Baylor and I can’t think of anything,” Stein said. “They’re doing an outstanding job. You have to be able to guard every single one of their players. You can’t sag off of anybody, you have to be out there challenging.”
COMPETITION FOR PARIS: With reigning AP National Player of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year Courtney Paris returning to Oklahoma for her junior season, it seemed a lock that she would be this year’s Big 12 Player of the Year. But even though her production has not dropped off, she has a challenger for that title — Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Andrea Riley. Riley has paced the best scoring offense in the conference with 22.6 ppg — the best in the Big 12. She also leads the conference in steals (3.2 spg) and has led the Cowgirls to a 4-0 record and a tie for first place in the Big 12.
“She’s having an incredible season and she’s helping her team,” Texas coach Gail Goestenkors said. “They’re undefeated right now in the conference. You most definitely need to mention her name as one of the leaders for conference player of the year. I don’t think it’s a a one-person race.”
OSU coach Kurt Budke praised several Big 12 point guards including Tisdale but said Riley’s play had been the best in the conference so far.
“Last year at this point in time we figured out ways to lose games, and this year we’re figuring out ways to win games and that has a lot to do with her,” Budke said. “Right now there’s nobody more valuable for any team than Andrea Riley. We’re only four games into it, we’ve got a long way to go, but the numbers she’s putting up right now are amazing.”
KANSAS STATE TURNING HEADS: When the Big 12 coaches filled in their ballots for preseason conference poll, the Wildcats finished eighth and didn’t get a first-place vote. But KSU is 22nd in the AP poll and in a three-way tie for the lead in the conference after a 4-0 start in Big 12 play.
“They’re obviously on a great streak right now, and they deserve to be in the top 25, they deserve to be in first place,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I’d say right now if you asked me to pick the favorite to win our leauge I’d have to pick them based on the schedule that’s ahead of them.”
KSU has already gotten big road wins against Texas and Texas A&M and has seven of its last 12 games at home.