COLUMBIA — Not since the Missouri women’s basketball team beat Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 7 have the Tigers won two games in a row. After finally breaking through a horrid 10-game, six-week losing streak with a win over Kansas on Sunday, the Tigers finally have another chance to get two straight.
The team began to focus on its next opponent soon after securing Sunday’s victory, but considering how long it had been, nobody is ready to let the winning feeling go.
“You definitely take the feeling with you, because it’s good to know how the winning feels,” said junior Alyssa Hollins. “We had the losing feeling enough that we want to hold onto this. We watched a lot of the highlights from the KU game but we also watched a lot of things we did wrong.”
Then again, a team with just two conference victories in late February has no right to be complacent, even coming off a rivalry win.
“We still feel good about it, but we know that we have to focus on Iowa State,” said freshman forward Shakara Jones. “We’re happy we got a win, but we’re focusing for today.”
Head coach Cindy Stein moved on quickly after the Kansas win. Her team was blown out by Iowa State in Ames earlier this month, and she said it will take a 40-minute effort to keep the Cyclones at bay. Despite losing their top two scorers, Toccara Ross and Nicky Wieben, to torn ACLs earlier this season, Iowa State is a veteran squad used to the rigors of the Big 12. Stein said she’ll look to head off that advantage by shortening the lineup, especially late in the game.
“I think that Iowa State is a tough team to play when you have so many inexperienced kids, so we may not be subbing as much,” Stein said. “Against Kansas, we played the more experienced players (at the end). I think Iowa State will be the same thing.”
In the 64-46 loss at Iowa State, two players did most of the damage for the Cyclones. Guard Alison Lacey scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and 6-foot-4 Jocelyn Anderson scored 15 points off the bench. Thus, the Tigers focused practice this week on stopping Lacey’s penetration and denying her post entries to Anderson.
“Lacey is a terrific player,” Stein said. “We’ll have our hands full with her. But we’re a much better defensive team than we were at that point.”
Jones, who will draw much of the defensive assignments against Anderson, will need to play as well as she did on Sunday, when she held Kansas’ Krysten Boogaard to just six points.
“Like we did against Boogaard, we have to deny her the ball the best we can,” Jones said.
Yet, even if Missouri can figure out Lacey and Anderson, the Tigers need to change their fortunes at the free throw line in order to make a game of it. In the first meeting, the Cyclones were 16-of-22 from the charity stripe, while Missouri was just 4-of-5.
“As far as Anderson, you have to deny her the ball and play defense. Get in position, don’t let her own the block, and she can’t make those moves and get the foul call,” Hollins said. “We definitely want to attack on the offensive end of the floor, try to get to the rim and work inside-out to get to the free throw line.”
Stein agreed, stressing the importance of getting to the free throw line early and often.
“We have to keep attacking the basket and doing things like that,” she said. “Iowa State is a team that doesn’t foul very much, (whereas) we play very aggressive defense. We need to make sure we’re looking at mismatches and we’re finding those opportunites to take it at them.”