COLUMBIA — If Missouri women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein was looking to prove to her team that it still has plenty of room for improvement she didn’t have to look far on Monday.
The Tigers (7-4) raced out to a 29-2 lead over Southeast Missouri State (4-8) on Monday afternoon and defeated the Redhawks 60-31. But despite the enormous margin of victory, Stein wasn’t willing to dish out postgame compliments after what she said was a lackluster second-half effort.
“That second half,” Stein said, “was probably one of the ugliest halves I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
The Tigers took a 40-12 lead into halftime but were outscored during the final 18 minutes. But Stein conceded that part of the reason for the second half letdown was that she was giving more minutes to some of her younger players who are still learning how to stay focused for the entire 40 minutes.
One of those players was freshman forward Christine Flores whose playing time has been sporadic throughout the season. But on Monday she played 13 minutes and finished with a career-high 13 points and five rebounds.
“I think Christine is going to get better and better,” Stein said. “I think this was a game that I did feel as though she came around a little bit more. I think she’ll continue to get better and better. She’s got a natural strength to her. I think we can kind of utilize that.”
The victory was the sixth in a row for Missouri. But if the second half served as a reminder for the Tigers that they still have room to improve, then last season is working as a tool to prevent them from looking past any opponents.
“We lost to a lot of teams last year from all levels that we didn’t think we should have lost to,” senior guard Alyssa Hollins said. “So I just try to be focused and bring energy in practice and be into it. Most of the time the girls follow me.”
The victory was the Tigers sixth victory in a row, but only two of those wins have come against teams from major conferences (Northwestern and Arkansas). Hollins said the team’s focus will have to improve considerably before Big 12 play begins.
“You have to emphasize that every possession really counts (in Big 12 play),” Hollins said. “Anything that you do, it can be so small. If you hit the wrong lane and you have a turnover, that could be the whole game. It’s hard to explain it because I didn’t understand it when people were telling me (as a freshman). It’s one of those things you do need to experience.”
Stein said the biggest area her team needs to improve in is on offense. She said her team struggled with its offensive timing throughout the game but that part of that was caused by the effort her players were putting forth on defense.
“You hope that your defense can create easy opportunities like layups and those types of situations,” Stein said. “But you know, you’ve got to work pretty hard on defense and it’s going to take something off of you.”
The Tigers next game is set for 12 p.m. Saturday at Duquesne.