COLUMBIA — A week off between games for the Missouri women’s basketball team could have seemed like a long layoff to some.
For Tigers seniors Amanda Hanneman and Jessra Johnson, the layoff was much longer.
Their Missouri teammates hadn’t played since Dec. 21, while Hanneman and Johnson hadn’t played in a game in nearly three weeks. The pair were arrested, suspended and later reinstated to the team earlier this month. The pair were accused of assaulting a MU male cheerleader, but charges were not pursued. Coach Cindy Stein told the players they had to “earn” their playing time back.
Stein must have liked what she saw in practice over the break. On Monday, the grueling layoff finally ended for the Tigers two leading scorers. The pair helped lead Missouri to a 71-44 victory over North Texas Monday night at Mizzou Arena.
“What's important is that it’s forgiveness. That’s the biggest thing. People forget about that. We’ve punished them,” Stein said about Hanneman and Johnson’s return. “It doesn’t mean we forget, but we do forgive. You’ve got to let certain things go and got to get them back in because they are your team. And you can’t exile them.”
While the two weren’t in the starting lineup, they still had an impact on the game. Just five minutes into the game, Hanneman entered to a noticeable ovation from the fans. Hanneman seemed to be a little anxious to be playing for the first time since Dec. 10. The senior shot airballs on her first two shots and went on to miss her first five shots. Then, with 3:30 left in the first half, Hanneman nailed a deep three-pointer from the top of the arc.
“She was pressing. I don’t think she played characteristically for her. But it will come,” Stein said. “I know she can drill them all night long. She’ll continue to have the green light.”
Meanwhile, Johnson, who scored her 1,000th point as a Tiger earlier this month, entered the game with eight minutes left in the half. Despite playing just those eight minutes, Johnson led the Tigers (9-2) with five rebounds, scored four points in the half and took a defensive charge.
“She attacked the boards. At a point, she was the only one rebounding for us. I think it says a lot,” Stein said.
Stein wasn’t the only one glad to have the Tigers two leading scorers back.
“It brings extra bodies and increases our depth. It brings more scoring than what we already have,” junior RaeShara Brown said.
The week-long break seemed to have an effect on the Tigers with the Mean Green leading 17-10 early on.
“Anytime, you have a break you will come back a little sluggish,” senior Toy Richbow said.
While Hanneman and Johnson did not have the usual scoring impact they usually do, that they were back out on the court was enough to give the Tigers a bit more confidence. Hanneman had five points, while Johnson added eight. Johnson led the Tigers with nine rebounds in just 17 minutes. Making sure the players stay on the right track is something Stein is striving for.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re talking to them and that make sure they are growing from their mistakes,” Stein said. “But you also got to love on them ... You got to move on.”
Getting the two seniors back in the lineup is essential to the Tigers success in the upcoming weeks.
Missouri will face a 9-4 Duquesne team on Saturday at Mizzou Arena and No. 15 ranked Xavier on Jan. 5. Then, comes Big 12 play, and the conference is expected to be one of the best in the nation this season.
On Monday, Hanneman and Johnson were once again held from speaking with the media following the game.