COLUMBIA - The Missouri women's basketball team ranks in the bottom three of the Big 12 Conference in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage and numerous other offensive and defensive categories.
So it comes as a surprise to see the Tigers rank second in both offensive rebounding and turnover margin.
If there is one thing the Missouri women’s basketball team treasures, it’s possession of the basketball. While the Tigers don’t do much with their opportunities (Missouri ranks 11th in the Big 12 in scoring), they aren’t short on chances. For a team that shoots only 39 percent from the floor, it's easy to see that the Tigers would have more opportunities for offensive rebounds than a team that shoots a high percentage. But for a squad that has trouble finding success on the court, the ability in the category stands out.
Missouri is second in the Big 12 in offensive rebounding, averaging 15.5 a game. During the Tigers 61-59 loss to Kansas on Saturday night at Mizzou Arena, Missouri recorded 15 offensive rebounds while only managing to grab 11 defensive boards.
“Our kids do a good job of playing off each other,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “I think they read shots. I think our pursuit of the ball for the most part is pretty good.”
Even with offensive rebounding being a strong point for the Tigers as a team, not one individual ranks in the top 13 in the Big 12 in that category. Jessra Johnson comes in at No. 14 with 2.53 offensive rebounds a game.
“Obviously it’s a collective effort,” Stein said. “Our players work real hard. They all try to do what they need to do. There’s desire to get that done. We don’t care who’s getting it done as long as somebody’s getting it done. That’s our attitude going in.”
While the offensive rebounding success remains a big positive for a struggling Missouri team, the lack of defensive rebounding is alarming. The team is 11th in the Big 12 with only 23.7 defensive boards a game. Heading into Saturday night’s game, Missouri was 10th in the Big 12 in rebounding margin, at +1.3 a game. That will surely change after being outrebounded 44-26 by the Jayhawks.
“We were aggressive on the boards,” said Danielle McCray, the Kansas star who torched Missouri for 19 points. “We’ve been working in practice a lot on box out drills and rebounding drills. We know we can just get inside our man and box out.”
Stein said the discrepancy in rebounding mainly resulted from trapping scenarios, where two Missouri players pressured one Kansas player.
“You get an overload on the defensive end,” Stein said. “The weak side is left open. I know that’s a lot of the cases. We’re working hard. We’re making them rush the shots. We just got to chase the ball down. They’re pretty physical in there. They’re pretty good athletes. It was a hard pursuit at times.”
Not only do the Tigers go all out to retain possession of the ball after a missed shot, Missouri does a good job of keeping possession of the ball in the first place. The Tigers are second in the Big 12 in turnover margin with a +4.79 differential. Saturday night was no different as the Missouri forced Kansas into 22 turnovers while only giving it away ten times.
“I think they (Missouri) did a good job of taking care of the ball,” Stein said. “They tell you to play defense and take care of the ball and that you’re going to have things go you way.”
Most times that’s the case. Shooting only 35.6 percent from the field can change that.
“Right now, we’ve just got to knock shots down,” Stein said. “I think every one of our kids would tell you that they can hit those shots. We got to keep believing that.”
At 11-9 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12, bright spots are hard to come by. Missouri will look to turn things around when the Tigers hit the road to take on Texas A&M at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
“Right now, so deep into the season, you’ve just got to work on strengthening your game,” junior guard RaeShara Brown said. “The ball’s not falling our way right now. But eventually it will.”