It doesn't take long for a team that won only 10 games a year ago to start to feel the pressure to win.
"As I told them, it’s only two games in, We can’t just freak out here, but we do have to work on our poise," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said during a postgame radio interview after her team's 65-55 loss to Illinois on Wednesday night in Champaign, Ill. "They’re better than that. A lot of that is just the desire to win and feeling pressure to win, and we’ve just got to make sure we calm them through those waters."
As it did in it's first game of the season, a loss to South Dakota State, the Missouri women's basketball team lead throughout most of the first half. The Tigers held an 11-point advantage at one point, but the Illini closed the first half on a 24-8 run and led by four points at intermission.
Alyssa Hollins, Missouri's leading scorer a year ago, got off to a slow start in the game. The senior played all 40 minutes but made just one field goal in the first half and was 4-of-22 in the game. Hollins, though, led the team in scoring with 16 points in part because of the foul trouble of her teammates.
Sophomore forward Shakara Jones, who finished with eight points, was charged with her second foul with 13:23 left in the first half and did not return until after halftime, while forward Jessra Johnson and center Kendra Frazier both fouled out with five minutes left to go.
Johnson scored 10 points in only 19 minutes of playing time while Frazier added five in 12 minutes.
“I thought she did a good job," Stein said about Frazier, a freshman. "Kendra’s had a really good week in practice, has really done a nice job, especially, you know, that’s a tough person to guard in one of your first games."
That person was the Illini's Jenna Smith, an All-American honorable mention selection last season. All three struggled to stop the Smith, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Forward Lacey Simpson led Illinois with 18 points.
Stein said her team had good looks at the basket but rushed many shots.
"Those are poise, so that’s the main thing that we talked about was just we’ve got to work on our poise, and a lot of that is just working harder and staying to the foundation of our principles defensively and offensively," she said.
The loss was the eighth consecutive defeat for the Tigers against Illinois.