Coach Cindy Stein said her starters did not play well against Duquesne on Saturday at A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh.
This turned out to be not so much a problem as a sign of progress for the Missouri women's basketball team because the rest of the team was able to contribute a victory.
“I felt like our bench probably saved us," Stein said in a phone interview after the game. "They played really well, which helped us with the win. I didn’t think we were real sharp from our starters.”
Missouri's non-starters combined to score 36 points in the Tiger's 76-65 win over the Dukes (10-5). It was only the second time this season the bench scored at least 30 points.
The only other time that happened, Jessra Johnson, who was being held out of the starting lineup for a violation of team rules, came off the bench to score 22 points against Western Illinois on Nov. 22.
Christine Flores, a non-starter who played significant minutes for the second consecutive game, set a career-high with 17 points. The 6-foot-3 freshman was averaging just more than two points per game entering Saturday.
“I feel like Christine’s been getting better and better," Stein said, echoing comments she made after Flores' nine-point performance against Southeast Missouri State on Monday. "I think that, obviously without school in session, she’s be able to really concentrate on her basketball and being focused."
Flores was efficient, taking just seven shots but making six of them. She said that adjusting to the quicker speed of college basketball has been key to her increased production.
"You’ve got to learn to go from here to there a lot faster than you did in high school," Flores said. "You had some time to recover (in high school), here you don’t. If you don’t move your feet, they’re going to shoot it."
Stein has repeatedly promised that the team's five freshmen would play and contribute more as the season progressed, and that the team would continue to get better as a result.
With a seven-game winning streak and Big 12 Conference play scheduled to start next Saturday, the play of Flores and redshirt freshman Bekah Mills, who has earned the starting point guard spot, makes it seem like everything is going according to the coach's plan.
“I think a lot of it is just repetition," Stein said about the newcomers' improvement. "We put a lot of different things in offensively and defensively. They’ve got to get to where they know it so well, they’re not having to think so much."
Senior Alyssa Hollins, still the team's steady leader, scored a game-high 19 points for the Tigers, while RaeShara Brown added eight points and nine rebounds.
Missouri (8-4) will host Chicago State at 5 p.m. on Tuesday before beginning Big 12 play against Texas A&M at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.