COLUMBIA — Shakara Jones rebounded a missed 3-pointer, got the defender in the air with a pump fake, took a dribble and flipped the ball in for an easy right-handed lay-up. With this basket, three minutes into the second half, she became the ninth Missouri player to score.
A balanced attack helped the Tigers cruise to an easy 74-57 victory in Missouri’s season opener against Northern Iowa. Senior Amanda Hanneman led the way with a career-high 26 points on 6-of-11 shooting from behind the 3-point arc. Another senior, Marissa Scott, also had a career-high, chipping in 11 points.
“She (Amanda) doesn’t miss very many shots,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “I mean it’s just a given. The only way you’re going to stop her is if you don’t let her have the ball, but she usually finds a way to score.”
With nine players scoring, including three in double figures, Missouri’s depth might be one of the team’s greatest strengths this season. The Tigers had 21 bench points Sunday.
“If we can get contributions from everybody, that’d be great,” junior guard RaeShara Brown said. “That keeps our scoring spread out, and it makes it harder for teams to scout us and harder for them to guard us..”
Being able to go 11 deep on most nights allows Missouri to run the floor and apply more pressure on the defensive side of the ball. Although Missouri has tried this up-tempo style in years past, the depth on this year’s team should help for more fresh legs.
“Our depth on the team is going to be essential for us,” Brown said. “Especially when you get into conference and you start playing lots of minutes throughout the week and that will help us keep our legs fresh and keep us able to play at a high intensity for 40 minutes.”
Missouri has no doubt about its ability to play well for the entire game.
“Whether we have people going in and out, there’s not a drop off,” Scott said.
An eager Hanneman jumped in, almost cutting off Scott mid-sentence.
“And that allows us to have trust in one another,” Hanneman said. “To have more depth and to have people actually healthy makes us a lot more trustworthy of each other.”
With all the players that warrant playing time, minutes are at a premium.
“I think that in practice we go at each other a lot harder because everybody’s fighting for the same positions and everybody wants playing time so it’s just that much more competitive against everybody,” Scott said.
Missouri shot the ball well from deep, especially in the first half when it went 6-for-12 from behind the 3-point line.
“I feel like we are a very good 3-point shooting team,” Stein said. “So our kids have the green light when they have a good look.”
Missouri started out the game on fire, opening with a 29-7 run and holding a lead as large as 27 points. The Tigers had a 41-16 lead at halftime but was outscored 41-33 in the second half.
“I think this is a great opening game,” coach Cindy Stein said. “We got to enjoy it for a little bit but obviously we have to prepare again.”