COLUMBIA — With just minutes remaining in the Missouri women’s basketball team’s 83-34 win over Texas-Pan American on Thursday night at Mizzou Arena, RaeShara Brown was on the bench, jumping up and down and waving her towel around after every Tigers basket. It sure was a new perspective for her.
Accustomed to playing more than 32 minutes a game, Brown was able to enjoy the last five minutes of the game cheering on her teammates. Brown played only 23 minutes thanks to the large advantage the Tigers held for the majority of the contest. Missouri’s starters have played at least 28 minutes a game, but they averaged just 19.8 minutes against the Broncs, a team picked to finish fifth in the Great West Conference. The conference is in its first year of collegiate basketball.
With the starters resting their legs on the bench, the reserves stepped in to experience the fun.
“Getting some of these kids that playing time and that experience out on the floor,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “Hopefully it can take away later jitters when we need them to step up against the Baylors and the Oklahomas.”
Stein said she wasn’t too worried about getting her starters rest, noting that they better be conditioned for the season.
“I was more concerned with getting a lot of kids better minutes,” Stein said. “You’ve got to make a commitment to that as a coach, to get them out there on the floor and get them to understand what you expect.”
Bailey Gee and Kendra Frazier took full advantage of their extra playing time. Gee had a career-high 14 points, and Frazier added seven points and three rebounds. Christine Flores had 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
“You enjoy it as a coach,” Stein said. “I’m really proud of Bailey because Bailey works extremely hard in practice and she’s always pulling the freshmen aside and trying to help them out and you saw that again on the floor. That’s a great leader.”
“My confidence got a lot greater as I got in the game and started playing more minutes,” Gee said. “I just try to prove that I can do something.”
The blowout victory also allowed freshmen Sydney Crafton and Trenee Thornton to get into a game for this first time this season. A little over a minute after entering the game, Crafton took a pass from Gee at the top of the key and calmly sank a 3-pointer. The bench and crowd erupted for what was the loudest cheer of the night.
“It’s a great feeling to see your bench do well,” senior Amanda Hanneman said. “Especially for the freshmen. Sydney’s been working extremely hard in practice. It was just nice to see what she’s been doing in practice payoff in a game.”
Missouri has won three games in a row and at 6-2 is off to its best start since the 2006-2007 season.
The offense could have quit at halftime. Up 41-18 at the break, the Tigers still would have won the game without scoring a single second half point.
The Tigers bench outscored the whole Texas-Pan American team 54-34.
“That doesn’t happen every day,” Stein said. “But I do think we have good scorers coming off the bench. We’ve just got to get their confidence to do that.”