Late-game execution costs Tigers women

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 | 9:56 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It looked like the Missouri women’s basketball team was in for another long night. The Tigers, who have made a habit of falling behind early, trailed No. 18 Kansas State 15-2 early in the first half. But this wasn’t going to be another blowout loss for Missouri. However, in the end, it was another loss.

The Tigers led for most of the second half before exchanging the lead with the Wildcats multiple times in the final seven minutes. But it was late-game execution that led to the Tigers’ 58-54 loss. Missouri coach Cindy Stein said in a radio interview after the game that her team was patient on offense and moved the ball on both sides of the court for most of the game. But in the closing minutes that changed.

“When we needed to score we panicked,” Stein said. “That’s what we talked about, in the closing minutes there was just a lot of panic in the timeouts, and it’s hard to try to be a calming force when you’ve got a lot of people talking in there.”

Stein said she thought her team improved substantially on defense. She said her team communicated much better than it had been, which was something she has been stressing the past couple of weeks in practice.

“We’re teaching this team how to win right now, and it was right there in our grasp,” Stein said.

The Tigers held the Wildcats to 38 percent shooting from the field, but they could not contain Wildcats junior forward Ashley Sweat who was the fifth leading scorer in the Big 12 entering the game with 15.8 points per game. Sweat finished with 25 points, including seven in the final 3:20.

Throughout their latest slump, the Tigers have maintained that the team is capable of playing with the Big 12’s top teams. At times, it has seemed to possess that potential, but its efforts have rarely translated into wins.

“We know we can play with these people,” redshirt freshman Bekah Mills said in a phone interview after the game. “It’s just coming up with a few more plays and putting a whole game together.”

In the end, Missouri let another opportunity pass by.

“You can’t let something like this slip away,” Stein said. “But I’ve got to coach better in the end there, and them a little bit more calmer.”

Junior Jessra Johnson led the Tigers with 12 points off the bench. 

The victory improves Kansas State’s record to 19-2 and 6-2 in the Big 12, while Missouri falls to 10-11 and 1-7. The Tigers have now lost five consecutive games and seven of their past eight.

The Tigers’ next game is against Kansas (13-7, 2-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

For more coverage of the Missouri women's and men's basketball teams from the Missourian, visit the MizzouHoops blog.

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