The connection between winning and attracting fans is obvious when looking at the Nebraska and Missouri women’s basketball programs.
The Tigers, which have struggled to a 1-13 record in Big 12 play, are lucky to have 2,000 fans at a home game at Mizzou Arena. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers, undefeated this season, have brought in at least 10,000 fans in six straight home games at Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Neb.
On Saturday night, Missouri saw the advantages of a strong fan base first-hand in a 67-51 loss at No. 3 Nebraska. An arena that holds 13,595 was sold out. Before the game, Missouri coach Cindy Stein said the Tigers needed to keep the crowd out of the game as much as possible.
“We’ve got to control the crowd and get off to a good start,” Stein said during a radio interview.
And for a while, the Tigers were successful.
Missouri kept the game close for much of the first half due to the scoring of Jessra Johnson and RaeShara Brown. The pair scored the Tigers first 18 points. However, a late run by the Huskers gave Nebraska a 40-27 lead at the break.
A change Stein made in the starting lineup seemed to pay dividends early. Senior Amanda Hanneman began the game on the bench, while Jasmyn Otote was in the starting lineup for the first time this year. Hanneman, who Stein said has been hampered by a shin injury, played 18 minutes off the bench.
“It’s a change. Maybe that will be good,” Stein said before the game.
In the second half, the offensive woes that have continually haunted the Tigers this season resurfaced. Not only that, the Tigers struggled to take care of the ball and turned it over 15 times.
“We really couldn’t get anything to drop,” Stein said after the game. “We had some good looks ... They (Nebraska) are one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
Stein said playing the Huskers for the second time in two weeks has its disadvantages. The Huskers beat the Tigers 82-78 on Feb. 13 in Columbia.
“I think it’s always tough when you play somebody so close together,” Stein said. “I don’t like it.”
Brown led the Tigers (11-16, 1-13) with 21 points, tying a career high. Kelsey Griffin led the Huskers (27-0, 14-0) with 19 points. The loss is the Tigers ninth straight.
Missouri plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday at No. 14 Texas.
After the loss Saturday, the difference between the Tigers and Huskers was even more evident. While the Huskers cut down the nets to celebrate their Big 12 regular season championship, the Tigers headed back to Columbia with another disappointing loss.