COLUMBIA — If a team is going to have a successful season, it must take care of the winnable games.
The Missouri women's basketball team dropped its second straight Big 12 Conference game Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena, falling 65-50 to Kansas State, a team not expected to be in the upper echelon of the conference. On Saturday, in their first conference game on the road at Colorado, the Tigers failed to take care of another winnable game, losing 64-48 to another team not expected to be a juggernaut in the Big 12 this season.
Now, the Tigers next seven games are against teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the polls. It remains to be seen how many of these games are winnable for the struggling Tigers.
After Wednesday's loss, Missouri's third straight overall, the mood of the team was not at a high point.
“I’m more concerned with the spirit of our team right now than maybe the X’s and O’s,” coach Cindy Stein said. “Because I think the X’s and O’s part of it will come very naturally to them, but I think they lose their spirit pretty quick.”
Junior RaeShara Brown said she has noticed a difference in her team.
“I think a few people are down on themselves, just because they want to do better,” Brown said. “We’re going to have to fix that before the Kansas game.”
In the first half, the Tigers (10-5, 0-2) seemed to be in for a close game and led at the break 28-25. But, with the score tied at 38 in the second half, everything changed. Suddenly, the Wildcats (10-6, 2-0) could not miss. A flurry of 3-pointers, many in the final seconds of the 30-second shot clock, put the Wildcats ahead 56-43. Kansas State went 7-for-8 from behind the arc in the half.
“I think defensively we played great defense for 29 out of 30 seconds, and they’d hit a three on us,” Stein said. “We missed some assignments.”
Failed communication among the Tigers players caused a number of defensive breakdowns in the second half.
“They were shooting way deeper in the second half,” Brown said. “We weren’t getting our hands out there fast enough.”
Wildcats freshman Brittany Chambers led all scorers with 18 points. Jessra Johnson, the only Tiger in double-digits, scored 12.
Offensively, the Tigers aren’t doing much better. After torching opponents earlier in the season, senior Amanda Hanneman continues to struggle. In the Tigers' first two conference games, she has just two points. Against the Wildcats, Hanneman managed just three shot attempts.
“We’ve got to do a better job of setting better screens for her. A lot of people have a good eye on her,” Stein said.
The Tigers face Kansas at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Lawrence. The Jayhawks (10-5), a team that was ranked earlier in the season, is a team that is also struggling. KU is 0-2 in conference play. A win against the Jayhawks would undoubtedly help the Tigers spirits.
Johnson said, “Growing up in Missouri, you only go to Missouri for two reasons: to be a student-athlete and beat KU.”
With the grueling schedule, the Tigers coach knows her team is not in an ideal situation.
“We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but it’s not a huge one,” Stein said. “The main thing is that we rebound from it.”