COLUMBIA — The Missouri women’s basketball team has struggled to put the ball in the basket on multiple occasions this year, but no performance was as pitiful as Sunday’s 56-40 loss to Kansas State at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers made 13-of-60 attempts from the field, a shade under 22 percent. Both numbers were season lows, surpassing the 15 of 59 (25.4 percent) showing in a 76-41 loss in January at Oklahoma State. Missouri also finished with its second lowest scoring output of the season and extended its losing streak to nine games.
“We showed a lot of our lack of experience in many phases of the game. We need some energizers,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “Our confidence isn’t always high. When you lose games like we have with our inexperience, it’s hard to build confidence in one another. We’ve got to continue to find energy and our work ethic has to be better than everyone else’s.”
A problem for the Tigers all season has been an over-dependence on 3-point shooters to carry the scoringload, and they have not found a consistent fourth option. Alyssa Hollins, Jessra Johnson and Shakara Jones have combined for over 67 percent of the team’s scoring. The theme continued on Sunday, as the three scored 33 of the team’s 40 points.
“I would say a lot of it is that we put a lot of pressure on Shak, Jessra and Alyssa,” Stein said. “We’ve got to have other people step it up and start looking for their opportunities. They’re hiding, and that’s not what we want.
“Until we get that, we’re going to struggle. It’s like three of us playing against five.”
Hollins scored 14 points on Sunday, just below her team-leading average of 16.2 per game, but she needed 19 shots to get there.
“Give all credit to Kansas State, they are very good defensively and they were working hard, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” Hollins said. “We should be used to everything they were doing. Everybody has to want the ball, and I think that is part of the problem.”
Missouri came into the weekend in last place in a bevy of the Big 12 Conference’s offensive categories, including scoring offense (60.4 points per game), field goal percentage (39.4) and free throw percentage (62.8). With a roster loaded with inexperienced players, some confidence concerns are beginning to seep into the minds of a team that hasn’t won a game since Jan. 12.
“I have no confidence issue when I’m playing basketball,” Johnson said. “But being young and playing in the Big 12, I’m sure there are some players on our team that have confidence issues. It’s just showing up to practice, shooting extra, knowing that if you’re a shooter, you can shoot. If you have moves to the basket, you can move to the basket.”
Despite the struggles, the coaching staff is still working to keep the players motivated for the regular season’s final stretch.
“Our inexperience is showing, but we’re learning to fight the fight,” Stein said. “The light bulbs are going to come on at some point, and we’d like for it to come this year. We’ve got five games left, and we’re still going to battle.”
Kansas State coach Deb Patterson had a similar experience just a year ago. The Wildcats limped to a 4-12 conference record, but turned things around quickly. They are off to 10-1 start in the Big 12, which leads the league.
“I think there are nights where it’s tough to make shots,” Patterson said. “When you’re young like Missouri is, it can be very difficult to make shots that three and four years from now you will make. It’s a reality and we understand that.”
The Tigers aren’t giving up on the season quite yet.
“We’re grinding. We’re getting better, or at least trying to get better,” Hollins said.
NOTES: Hollins started the game on the bench, only the second time she has done so in the past two seasons. Stein said it was because of disciplinary reasons, but would not elaborate. Hollins entered the game at the first media timeout and played 34 minutes.
• Missouri participated in Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “Think Pink” initiative in the fight against breast cancer. Missouri was one of over 900 schools nationwide to join the effort. Both coaches lauded the event, and called for more support in the fight against breast cancer. The Tigers wore pink shoelaces, headbands and shooting shirts, and the first 1,000 fans received pink T-shirts. All proceeds from the game went to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Sunday’s game drew a season-high 2,107 fans.