COLUMBIA — There was a sense of impending doom hanging over the Missouri women's basketball team before Thursday's practice.
“We all thought we were going to die, actually," junior forward Marissa Scott admitted. "She was very upset with us, and, I mean, we deserved it. No lie.”
Missouri (10-9, 1-5)
at Oklahoma (17-2, 6-0)
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Norman, OK
She in this case was coach Cindy Stein, who for the second day in a row berated her team for a lack of effort in its 68-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena, though Scott and her teammates lived to talk about it.
“It’s upsetting that you’ve got a ranked team in your building, and you can’t play a little more inspired than that," Stein said Thursday. "I mean, that’s very disappointing.”
At one point this season, the Tigers won eight games in a row, but since the start of Big 12 Conference play Missouri is 1-5.
“Some of them handle criticism really well, and others struggle with it," Stein said. "They don’t like it to be pointed out that they don’t do well, and those are usually the ones that struggle with making the changes as quickly as we need.”
Confidence is the topic that comes up over and over again in conversations with Stein and her players. They don't have enough of it, and they know it.
"I think that’s just a given," Stein said. "When you lose that many games in a row after such a high, I think it’s more of a downer, and it’s teaching them how to pick yourself back up.”
This might prove difficult for Missouri (10-9, 1-5 in the Big 12). Four of the Tigers' next five games are against teams with a combined record of 16-2.
Until Wednesday, Stein had mostly lauded her team's work ethic. Now she says not playing hard enough will keep some regulars on the bench.
Shakara Jones will start Saturday at No. 2 Oklahoma, Stein said. Scott, who hasn't started a game all season, might, and Alyssa Hollins probably will. The rest is still up in the air, she said.
“You can put five players out there that you know would probably play better together, but those five players aren't necessarily all playing hard right now," she said. “... Ninety percent of our attitudes today were really good, and that’s what you want, but we need it to be 100.”
While it seems unlikely Missouri will beat Oklahoma, as it did in last season's Big 12 tournament, Hollins, a senior, recognizes the game is a chance for the Tigers to make up for missed opportunities early in the conference season.
“I know the magnitude of what’s going on. I don’t know that the girls necessarily know," Hollins said, referring to her young teammates. "Sometimes I think it’s better not to know.”
Hollins said she knows Missouri must begin to play better now if it wants to avoid a second consecutive last-place finish in the Big 12.
“I don’t think we realize how good we can really be," Hollins said. "I don’t think we realize our own potential as a team, and, until we get really hungry and decide that we’re just not taking it anymore, we’re going to struggle.”
If they can't muster the confidence, a little faith would help, she said.
“It’s not intimidation so much as we haven’t necessarily done it yet. We’re kind of a ‘we need the proof’ kind of team, which is not good," Hollins said. "You’re supposed to have that blind faith type thing. We’re going to need a little bit of blind faith to get over the hill one time.”
Tipoff against the Sooners (17-2, 6-0 in the Big 12) is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
For more coverage of the Missouri women's and men's basketball teams from the Missourian, visit the MizzouHoops blog.