COLUMBIA—After the Missouri women's basketball team's 61-56 loss to Colorado on Saturday night, Buffaloes' coach Kathy McConnell-Miller talked about the improvement the Tigers have made since last season.
"I think they're more experienced than last year," McConnell-Miller said. "And I think they're going to their strengths better than they did last year."
The Tigers' biggest strength this season has been forcing turnovers with intensive defensive pressure. The Tigers average over 20 turnovers per game and forced 23 on Saturday.
But while Missouri's defense has been effective, its offense has struggled. The Tigers have shot below 40 percent this season. Their poor shooting is what caused them to lose a game in which they forced 23 turnovers, grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and shot 13 more shots than Colorado, which had yet to win a conference game before Saturday.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein sounded exasperated as she talked about what her team needs to do to improve on offense. She said the problems have been addressed numerous times in practice.
"It's frustrating," Stein said. "Because this team has been spending more time working on their shots, doing that in practice, working on their intensity of taking shots. And not to be able to shoot at home is very disappointing."
Stein said the day after her team lost to Iowa State last week she came to practice on Thursday to find that her players had showed up 20 minutes early to work on their shooting.
"It was probably one of our better practices," Stein said. "They had a lot of energy, they wanted to get better."
Stein added that she is relieved to see that her team is getting open shots. She said that tells her that this isn't an issue with her offensive game plan or even her team's execution. It just comes down to making open shots.
"It would be one thing if we couldn't get a shot off," she said. "Because then I'd be worried about our offense as far as are we running the right plays, but we're getting the shots we need. We've just got to knock them down."
She also said she doesn't think talking to her players about their offensive slump will be effective and doing so might cause her team to over-analyze what it is doing when it has the ball. Instead, she hopes her defense will step up another its effort another effort until the offensive struggles sort themselves out.
But if the Tigers are going to compete in the Big 12 they will have to break out of this slump sooner rather than later. Missouri just completed what might be the easiest five-game stretch of its Big 12 schedule. The first five teams Missouri played in conference have a combined record of 9-16 in conference and yet only managed to go 1-4. Now the Tigers will play five ranked opponents in their next six games with a combined record of 19-9 in conference.
"I think the main thing is with our team is that we do have to work with them to teach them how to win the big game," Stein said. "It's a mentality thing. I think there's sometimes a fear factor involved. And we're still young. We're probably the youngest team with the youngest starters in the league."
The victory improves the Buffaloes' record to 9-8 and 1-4 in the Big 12 while it drops the Tigers to 10-8 and 1-4. The Tigers' next game is against No. 24 Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena.