COLUMBIA — An impossibly difficult assignment got more challenging before it ever started.
The Missouri women's basketball team, in last place in the Big 12 Conference, was to start a lineup full of new faces against Oklahoma, the Big 12 leader and No. 2 team in the country.
Only one made it onto the Sooners' court on Saturday.
Tigers junior guard Toy Richbow, junior forward Marissa Scott and sophomore guard Jasmyn Otote were suspended for the game after violating a team rule, according to a text message from team spokeswoman Kate Lakin.
Without ever leading, Missouri was routed 78-56.
After a lackadaisical loss to Oklahoma State on Wednesday night, Missouri coach Cindy Stein said she would be making changes in the number of minutes typically awarded to players.
After the team's practice on Thursday, Stein said Scott, who has not started a game all year, would "probably" find herself in the starting lineup on Saturday.
Stein would not say who would start at point guard for the Tigers, leaving open the possibility that Richbow could have started for the first time since Nov. 25.
"It’s one of those things that we’ve got to make better people and a better team," Stein said about the suspensions in a radio interview after the game.
Richbow and Scott are the only non-starters on the Tigers' roster to average more than 10 minutes of playing time per game.
"I thought we hung our heads a lot," Stein said. "This team was down. It was hard to pick them up after the suspensions, and I think they feel really let down by some teammates."
Freshman Christine Flores started in place of Jessra Johnson. Flores, who had to guard Oklahoma All-American center Courtney Paris, finished with two points and five rebounds in 24 minutes, but Stein said she was pleased with her contribution.
“I think what you can see is the potential in that young lady." Stein said. "She’s terrific, and you know she’s still learning. ... She didn’t quite score like I thought she could, but she does a lot of good things."
Johnson, the Tigers' second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, stepped onto the court with more than six minutes gone in the first half but did not stay for long. She quickly got into foul trouble and fouled out after playing just 9 minutes and scoring two points.
Alyssa Hollins and Shakara Jones, who took their usual spots in the starting lineup, led the Tigers in scoring. Hollins scored 17 and Jones had 11.
Missouri trailed 45-20 at halftime but outscored Oklahoma (18-2, 7-0 in the Big 12) in the second half, thanks in part to a slew of subs from the Sooners, whose game against the Tigers was sandwiched between games against No. 4 Baylor and No. 13 Tennessee.
"I think that we played hesitant the first half," Stein said. "We played a little scared, but I felt like our team started building. I felt like we came out strong second half, (and) played more like the way we wanted to."
Missouri (10-10, 1-6 in the Big 12) must now go on the road to play No. 14 Kansas State at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“All we can do is get better. Right now we’re a little down," Stein said. "We’ve just got to keep pulling those boots up and taking it after it.”
For more coverage of the Missouri women's and men's basketball teams from the Missourian, visit the MizzouHoops blog.