The storyline was a familiar one for the Missouri women's basketball team.
“Close once again but not enough," coach Cindy Stein said after her team fell to 1-3 on the season after losing to Indiana Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
"You know our goal right now is just to keep getting better. I think we’ve made some improvement from the last game and Indiana is a very good quality team, but we’ve got to knock these people down and that’s what we’re going to be focused on," Stein said.
The Tigers fell behind the Hoosiers (2-2) by as many as 13 points but pulled within three points at halftime thanks to a 12-2 run to end the first half. Although Missouri was eventually able to tie the game with 8:47 to left the in the game, it never could took a lead in the second half and lost 63-54.
"I would say that you know there’s just times when we’d tie the game up and every time we came back and we’d have crucial possessions we panicked in that possession, trying to score too quickly," said Stein.
Indiana's Whitney Thomas led a dominating inside performance for the Hoosiers, scoring 23 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. The Tigers were outscored 32-18 in the paint and were outrebounded 45-34. They gave up 17 offensive rebounds.
“Rebounding cannot be that bad," said Stein. "I mean, we got forced underneath the basket, and then they’d miss a shot and we’re still standing there underneath the basket. It’s just a matter — we’ve got to get a lot tougher in that category.”
Senior Alyssa Hollins, who led Missouri with 16 points in the game, said that blame for the defensive struggles could be passed around.
"You can’t point to just post defense because it’s everybody helping and all sorts of little break downs — mental breakdowns that went on that allowed them to get some easy ones," Hollins said.
“We wanted them to work for everything and that didn’t necessarily happen all night, so it’s just defense in general, we have to pick it up on the defensive end if we want to be competitive.”
Jessra Johnson had 15 points and 12 rebounds in the loss, and Shakara Jones had nine points.
While Stein insisted that it's too early for her team to panic about individual losses and said she expects the Tigers to be a "good team" before season's end, she admitted that there was one big hurdle for her team to overcome before it can expect to win close games.
“I would tell you that our team lacks confidence at times. That’s just something that we’ve got to keep battling. That’s a life thing, too. You’ve got to keep battling away, and you’ve got to keep trying to do your best and believe in yourself," she said.
“If we can ever get everybody playing in sync," she said. "You guys are probably going to be amazed."
The Tigers will play Holy Cross and Northwestern in the Mildred and Roger L. White Invitational on Saturday and Sunday in Evanston, Ill.