COLUMBIA — It was almost five minutes into the game before Tennessee Martin scored its first points, and the game was nearly finished before the visitors scored its first second-half field goal.
The Missouri women's basketball team dominated Tennessee Martin, a team picked to finish last in the Ohio Valley Conference, winning 74-23 on Sunday at Mizzou Arena, even with final exams scheduled to start on Monday.
"Their minds could be somewhere else. It’s a team you’re supposed to beat," Missouri coach Cindy Stein said after the victory. "So you’ve got to make sure you’re bringing the energy, you’re bringing the focus and maintaining that throughout the 40 minutes.”
Twelve of the 13 players on Missouri's roster played at least 10 minutes and 11 different people scored.
Spreading the playing time around was about more than emptying the bench in a blowout win for Stein. Throughout the early part of the season, she has talked about the need to get increased production from the freshman class as the season progresses, and after Missouri's victory against Bradley on Tuesday, she said her goal was to build a 10-person rotation, something the Tigers have not yet been able to do.
“That’s huge for some of our young kids to get in," Stein said after Sunday's game. "They might not always do what you want but the minutes on the court and having that experience and learning how to calm themselves down and to perform under pressure — that’s always important, those minutes during a game.”
Freshman guard Bailey Gee played a season-high 19 minutes and scored 13 points to go along with seven rebounds. Stein singled her out as someone she wants to give more minutes as she continues to improve.
"I just think at the beginning of the year ... my confidence level was a little down because I was trying to get to know everything and learn all of Coach Stein’s ways to do stuff, and I finally have just embraced it and know what I’m doing now," said Gee making an admission that drew laughs from her coach and teammates. "I mean obviously sometimes I forget what I’m doing, but it’s gotten a lot better and just my confidence has gotten a lot better.”
Redshirt freshman Bekah Mills had 13 points and six steals against the Skyhawks (1-7), and freshman center Christine Flores had eight rebounds.
Missouri (5-4) has won four games in a row, including the past three by at least 20 points. While Sunday's game was an exception, the quality of Missouri's opponents hasn't dramatically declined as the Tigers have started winning.
Alyssa Hollins, who finished with 11 points, said the team's ability to rotate players in and out without a drop-off in performance has been a key to the winning streak.
"I feel like that has improved a lot, and people are getting a lot of confidence and coming in and, rather than being a liability, they’re adding something, keeping the intensity up," Hollins said.
Missouri will get a better idea of how much it has improved when it plays Arkansas on the road at 2 p.m. next Sunday. The Razorbacks (8-2) defeated the Tigers 66-53 last year at Mizzou Arena.