COLUMBIA—Heading into its game against No. 2-ranked Oklahoma, the Missouri women’s basketball team needed to catch some breaks to have a chance at an upset.
Who: Missouri (10-10, 1-6 Big 12) at No. 18 Kansas State (18-2, 5-2)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, Kan.
Radio: KWWC/90.5 FM
Maybe a hot shooting night from its two leading scorers, senior Alyssa Hollins and junior Jessra Johnson, who have found themselves mirrored in their own individual slumps. Or maybe breakout games from reserve players, juniors Marissa Scott and Toy Richbow, who were to be inserted into the starting lineup on Saturday. But what it got instead was an unwanted distraction.
Prior to the game Scott and Richbow, along with sophomore Jasmyn Otote, were suspended for breaking an undisclosed team rule. This is the second incident this season involving a player being reprimanded for violating team policies. Johnson was held out of the starting lineup earlier this year in a game against Western Illinois. Missouri coach Cindy Stein would not specify what infraction the players committed.
“We try to keep that in the family,” Stein said.
Hollins said the suspensions were particularly unfortunate considering the opportunity the Tigers had to rebound from a three-game losing streak by possibly upsetting a marquee opponent.
“At this point in time you don’t want anything distracting you from the task at hand,” Hollins said. “Especially with the season we’re having. Everybody needs to be focused on the same thing so it’s unfortunate that we had the suspensions, especially when we had the opportunity to play the No. 2 team in the country on their home floor.”
Stein admitted that the suspensions affected her team’s play early on before settling down in the second half. But by that time the Tigers had built a 25-point deficit and the closing minutes weren’t much more than a formality.
Stein said the suspended players have since been reinstated thanks to the work they’ve been putting in during practice. She mentioned Scott as a player who has gone above and beyond what was expected of her in wake of the suspension.
“I will tell you I’m very pleased with Marissa Scott,” Stein said. “She’s been here and working her tail off. And she’ll probably start on Wednesday.”
Stein said Richbow and Otote have also worked hard but that Scott has been coming in early to practice every day and has a brought a positive energy that has caught the eye of the coaching staff.
But the effect that suspensions, coupled with the Tigers’ losing streak, can have on a team’s morale naturally has Stein concerned.
“You always worry about the morale,” Stein said. “You’ve got to keep them working hard and sometimes you’ve got to discipline them a little bit. Sometimes it’s hard to come here and work hard everyday because you’re not seeing a good result out of it. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
But the consensus among the rest of the team is that it’s time to move on.
“Everybody’s admitted to the mistakes and whatever it was,” sophomore Raeshara Brown said. “We’re trying to rebuild and move on to the next level and I don’t think we have time to harp on it right now.”
Missouri (10-10, 1-6 Big 12) will now go on the road to play No. 18 Kansas State (18-2, 5-2) at 7 tonight.
For more coverage of the Missouri women's and men's basketball teams from the Missourian, visit the MizzouHoops blog.