COLUMBIA—For one day, everything seemed different.
All season long, the Missouri women’s basketball team has struggled to draw fans to Mizzou Arena. But on Saturday, the announced attendance for the Tigers’ game against Kansas was 3,546, more than double what they usually draw.
All season long, the Tigers have struggled to play consistently well for 40 minutes. But on Saturday, that wasn’t an issue. The Tigers led by 10-plus points for most of the game and cruised to a 74-60 victory.
Earlier in the season, the Tigers lost to the Jayhawks 75-58 and in the weeks following the loss, Missouri coach Cindy Stein said her team’s flat play had baffled her.
But on Saturday afternoon it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t going to be a repeat performance by the Tigers.
“I think this type of game has been a long time coming,” Stein said after the game with a smile on her face. “I felt like we controlled the game defensively the entire game.”
Stein admitted that this was the kind of performance she expected to see from her team this season. But she added that every team — especially one as young as hers — goes through a process of discovering how to play consistently.
“I think that we felt like we had the potential earlier for us to be in sync like this,” Stein said. “But every team matures at their own pace and you’ve got to bring them along.”
Stein said it’s important for her to stay focused on her own coaching responsibilities when her team goes through an extended slump like it has been in the past three weeks.
“I’ve got to make sure that I kind of step back and continue to teach and not get frustrated,” Stein said. “Because we are learning.”
Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson credited the Tigers for playing a good game but was much more eager to talk about the lack of effort from her own team. She didn’t hesitate to call out her team for their failure to perform.
“Poor effort. Poor focus. Poor concentration. Poor performance,” Henrickson said when assessing her team’s effort.
“Panic. No poise. We have no poise on the offensive end and we don’t have the toughness to go rebound and then defensively there’s just no heartbeat,” she said.
Stein didn’t deny that the Jayhawks played poorly but said she didn’t think that diminished her own team’s performance.
“It’s funny,” Stein said. “I talk about this with the other coaches all the time, it’s like every team has their own issues. It just depends whose issues are worse that day. And we were so flat in Lawrence so you’ve just got to get your own team ready and hope that you just catch somebody on a bad night. But don’t expect it because the Big 12’s too tough.”
Stein and her players also talked about continuing to get better and improving their standing in the Big 12. They have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to even sniff the upper-half of the conference standings. Even with the victory, the Tigers are sitting in eleventh place in the conference (2-7) and tough games against No. 8-ranked Baylor and No. 18 Kansas State loom in the coming weeks.
But the Tigers also admitted it was sweet to enjoy a victory after experiencing so much frustration as of late. When senior Alyssa Hollins was asked if it was special to get a win in her final game against rival Kansas she put a stern expression on her face and stared out at the group of reporters.
“It means everything,” Hollins said before cracking a smile. “No, seriously. It’s important. It’s one of those things, I’m from Dallas and I was thinking of this because I’ve got a friend of mine, LaChelda Jacobs, who plays for Kansas, but we come from Dallas and we get put into this rivalry and we don’t know anything about it. But it really becomes a part of you. We don’t like them. So it’s a big deal.”
The Tigers’ next game is at Baylor next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.