COLUMBIA — Many times, the plays that don’t show up in the box score are the difference between winning and losing.
Whether it was RaeShara Brown taking a charge, Jessra Johnson diving on the floor for a loose ball or Marissa Scott wreaking havoc by deflecting passes, the Missouri women’s basketball team made the hustle plays it needed to escape with a 66-55 victory over Ball State on Saturday afternoon.
“We live on hustle plays,” coach Cindy Stein said. “That’s what we want to be known for. We talk a lot about our energy and the things that we want to do so that’s all about how we want our defense to be.”
For the Tigers, this is nothing new.
“Any given night, any of our players are willing to sacrifice their body,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty much an everyday thing.”
Missouri has been working on increasing the intensity in practice to prepare for the games. Sophomore Christine Flores said there has been an emphasis on denying the passing lanes in practice to help simulate game situations.
“So we can practice just as hard as we play,” Flores said.
On a day where the offense struggled for most of the game, the defense turned up the intensity until the shots started to fall. Missouri shot just 33 percent in the first half but increased that to 58 percent in the second half. The defense forced 21 turnovers, had eight steals and recorded five blocked shots.
“We want to be known as a very strong defensive team,” Stein said. “That’s where you got to make your statement. For us to have success this year, our defense is going to have to be really good.”
The Tigers came out with an energy that has become synonymous with Missouri women’s basketball.
“That’s just an expectation of ours,” Stein said. “We expect that every single game. I really felt that we had some really good plays—great hustle plays—and we had to have them. That’s what made that run go. Any time you got to make a run on a team, it’s got to be through your energy.”
The run Stein spoke of happened midway through the second half. With the Tigers trailing 40-36, Missouri went on a 15-2 run to take control of the basketball game.
“Second half, we came out with more intensity on defense and that created our offense,” junior guard RaeShara Brown said.
Johnson and Shakara Jones led Missouri with 18 and 15 points, respectively. Flores also chipped in 10 points in just 13 minutes on the floor. The presence of several solid post players breeds optimism for the Tigers.
“I really felt that we had a great inside presence,” Stein said. “Our post play was phenomenal tonight. Hats off to them (Johnson, Jones and Flores) for really looking to attack them (Ball State) inside.”
Missouri’s second half resurgence improved its home record to 2-1.
“We want to make it tough for anybody who comes in here,” Brown said. “Make them uncomfortable and maintain that home-court advantage.”