COLUMBIA — RaeShara Brown gets the rebound and quickly moves the ball up the court. Brown sees the Colorado defense relax as she enters the lane and darts to the basket. She takes the ball up for a layup and the defender fouls Brown hard, tossing her viciously to the floor. Brown momentarily stays down, but then quickly pops up and limps off the court.
It is that type of gritty play that the Missouri women’s basketball team desperately needed.
But it still wasn’t enough.
The Tigers lost 80-79 in overtime to Colorado on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena. The loss is the Tigers' eighth straight. At the postgame press conference, a deflated Cindy Stein spoke in a soft tone. In a season full of disappointing losses, this one might have been the toughest to take.
“It’s hard to say which one is the worst,” Stein said. “This one leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”
For the players, each loss gets more frustrating.
“You can’t really put these losses into words,” Brown said. “It’s hard on the team because you put it all out there every night.”
Throughout the game it appeared Missouri was cruising to its second conference victory of the season. The Tigers led most of the way. They led by eight points with less than four minutes left. Then, with 42 seconds to go, Tigers senior Toy Richbow missed one of two free-throw attempts, leaving Missouri with a 74-71 lead.
The missed free throw proved costly.
The Buffaloes' Brittany Spears proceeded to hit her sixth 3-pointer of the game, tying the game at 74. This wasn’t the first time the Tigers had blown a late lead this season. When games get tight late, the Tigers offense suddenly seems to disappear.
“I think our lack of confidence in the stretch coming down the floor definitely revealed itself,” Stein said.
When the Buffaloes tied the game, a feeling of disbelief swept through the crowd. However, Stein was not amazed by what she saw.
“Nah, I’ve seen her do that before,” Stein said about Spears. “We’ve watched so much film, we know everything these kids can do.”
In overtime, the Tigers led until the Buffaloes scored with 55 seconds remaining to go ahead. The Tigers had a chance for a last-second win, but a mid-range jumper with one second left by Shakara Jones hit the back of the rim and bounced out. When the buzzer sounded, Mizzou Arena was eerily quiet. Fans and players were in disbelief.
The play of Spears was the biggest factor in the Tigers' demise. The Buffaloes junior created matchup problems for the Tigers, and she led all scorers with 34 points.
“Brittany has such a quick release,” Stein said about the Buffaloes 6-foot-1 star. “It’s hard to put a guard on her because she’s so tall. She’ll shoot over the top.”
As a team, the Buffaloes made 14 3-pointers, scoring 18 of their first 20 points from behind the arc.
For the Tigers, a career-high 21 points by Brown went to waste. Her previous career high was 17 points, against Colorado in January of 2009.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Missouri. The Tigers play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Nebraska (25-0, 12-0). In a league as strong as the Big 12, it is hard for the Tigers to gain any momentum.
“I’m not sure how you build confidence when you’re losing," Stein said. "But we’ll have to figure out how.”