COLUMBIA — On Thursday, Missouri women's basketball coach Cindy Stein admitted she is facing a dilemma.
In order for her team to continue to improve and to have a chance to do well in the Big 12 Conference tournament, she thinks she needs to go deeper on her bench. But, in an effort to win close games, she has kept her reserves off the court.
Missouri (12-14, 3-10 in the Big 12) at Colorado (11-14, 3-10)
When: 5 p.m.
Where: Boulder, Colo.
Radio: KFRU/1400 AM
"We got to work on our depth and get our depth ready," Stein said after Missouri's 66-56 loss to Texas on Tuesday at Mizzou Arena. "I wanted to do that a little bit more today, but I felt like we didn't really always have the opportunity."
The Tigers held a lead against Texas for much of the first half, just as they did against Nebraska in their previous game. In both games, Missouri trailed by single digits in the second half but weren't able to complete a comeback.
"In every Big 12 game it comes down to a few possessions and there's not a lot of room for error," Stein said Tuesday.
"We had freshmen come in, have to come in and give us some minutes," she said. "They played a little rattled tonight which we haven't had them do in a while."
Hence, her problem. She isn't sure how her freshmen will play on any given night, so she doesn't know how much playing time to give them, especially when wins have been hard to collect.
Missouri is 3-10 in conference play this year and have fallen below .500 overall at 11-13. Last season, the Tigers finished in last place with a 2-14 Big 12 record.
Redshirt freshman Bekah Mills has been a fixture in the starting lineup. Mills, a point guard, averages 22 minutes and 5.9 points a game. Freshman center Christine Flores has been the second most productive of the Tigers' five newcomers, averaging 3.9 points per game.
Stein has said several times throughout the season that Missouri is still working on learning how to win, but the Tigers' youth and competitive play against several teams this season lead her to believe winning is something they can accomplish.
"We're a better team than last year and even a better team than the year before that, actually," Stein said Thursday.
For now, though, she is keeping the aspirations basic.
"Our goal is to go to Colorado and win."