COLUMBIA - Marching bands could be seen promenading down Rollins Road through the windows of Brewer Fieldhouse at the MU Student Recreation Complex on Saturday morning. But inside the Rec Center the sound of squeaking sneakers and whistles replaced the blare of sousaphones and trumpets.
Nearly 700 people filed into the MU rec complex to take advantage of a free pancake breakfast, and afterward, those that stuck around got their first look at the Missouri women's basketball team during a scrimmage that was open to the public.
The Tigers were split into Black and Gold teams and played five 10-minute periods with a running clock. The Gold team led throughout and pulled away 64-53. The scrimmage gave the Tigers the opportunity to play in front of a crowd for the first time this season.
"They need to be able to practice when people are watching," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. "Practice is pretty quiet, and then you get in front of people and your adrenaline's flowing and it's learning how to play with that adrenaline flowing a little bit higher than usual."
In a preseason poll, the media picked the Tigers to finish last in the Big 12 Conference, but many of the fans in attendance Saturday remained optimistic.
"We've got nowhere to go but up," said Columbia resident Randy Mahoney. "I think if they can just go back to the NIT (National Invitation Tournament) it would be a success."
The Tigers are lacking in experience with five freshmen and only one senior. But Stein said she is excited by her team's youth and expects the overall depth to be improved from last year's squad.
"All our freshmen are capable of scoring," Stein said. "We want the flow of the game to be a little faster because we have the depth now that we can speed up the play whether it's defensively or offensively."
The Tigers' lone senior is guard Alyssa Hollins who led the team in scoring last season with 16.6 points per game and was an All-Big 12 Conference honorable mention selection. Hollins also finished the season as the program's all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 166. Hollins was double- and triple-teamed at times last season and figures she will face similar strategies from opposing defenses this year. But Hollins isn't intimidated by that possibility.
"I'm working within a system," Hollins said. "If I start to force things and press then I don't accomplish much at all. So the key thing in the system is making reads. The defense has to give you something no matter if you are double- or triple-teamed."
Even though Hollins is the most experienced and accomplished player on the roster, Stein doesn't expect her team to rely on Hollins' scoring ability as much as it has in the past.
"Now that we have more people to help her I think it takes a little bit more pressure off of her," Stein said. "She's still our leader. We still want to get her the ball a lot. Those roles don't change. I just think she's stepped more up into a leadership role than she was last year just because she has a little bit more experience."
The Tigers will play their first exhibition game Nov. 7 against Southwest Baptist.