COLUMBIA—Missouri women’s basketball coach Cindy Stein said she started getting nervous about her team’s game against Chicago State after she saw two other top Big 12 teams lose to unranked opponents on Monday night.
Monday, No. 8-ranked Texas fell to Purdue while the No. 3-Texas A&M lost to Florida State.
But Stein shouldn't have worried. The Tigers easily handled Chicago State 63-42 and increased their win streak to eight games heading into Big 12 play, which begins on Saturday. The Tigers were missing that positive momentum a year ago when they had lost two of three games at the start of conference play and were sitting at 7-6.
“I think it helps your confidence,” Stein said. “Like I say, when we have certain people out there, things click and I think it looks good. It’s just cleaning everything else up, and that’s what wee need to do in the next three days.”
The Aggies — Missouri's opponent on Saturday — will be the first ranked team Missouri has played since its season opener against No. 23 South Dakota State—a game the Tigers lost 55-50. Now that the Tigers are finished with their non-conference schedule they will begin facing stern tests on a weekly basis. The Big 12 features six teams in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll, including four in the top 10. But Stein said that isn’t something her team is intimidated by.
“We think we’re one of those good teams,” Stein said. “It’s hard to say how everything’s going to pan out and I think that’s the most important thing. Regardless of how we are doing right now, we all start out 0-0.”
The Tigers will have a lot to prove after they finished with a 2-14 conference record last season, good for last in the Big 12. That’s something that junior Jessra Johnson said keeps her awake at night.
“That’s what I think about every night,” Johnson said. “ We’re the people that have something to prove. They’re (other Big 12 teams) just playing the team that finished last in the Big 12 last year.”
Sophomore Shakara Jones was careful to avoid downplaying the importance of the team’s non-conference games but admitted that the level of competition in the Big 12 is something that can take freshmen by surprise if they aren’t prepared for it.
“The Big 12, this is the conference to be in” Jones said. “And it’s very tough and I think that coming into Saturday they’ll (the freshmen) learn that yeah we have to be intense in these games but this time you have to be intense all the way out. You cannot slack off.”
The Tigers next game is against Texas A&M at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.