COLUMBIA — RaeShara Brown sprinted to the bench with her mouth wide open and her tongue sticking out. She had just blown by everyone on defense for an easy layup to cap a 23-0 run for the Missouri women's basketball team and force the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders to take their fourth timeout of the half.
The layup gave the Tigers a 41-14 lead with 4:16 to play in the first half. The Tigers never looked back and defeated the Highlanders 72-37 on Sunday at Mizzou Arena. Although the Tigers had a big lead for most of the game, Brown continued to play the same way she's played basketball her whole life.
"I only know one way to play basketball and that's with passion and that's with emotion and that's with intensity," Brown said.
Brown's mentality doesn't apply just to basketball. It reflects her character.
"The way I approach basketball is a lot like how I approach life," Brown said. "Nobody is going to give you anything. Anything that's worth anything is going to have to be worked hard for. Me approaching a win is like me approaching a job interview or whatever the case may be. I have to want it more than the next person, and I understand that it's not going to be given to me."
Brown led the Tigers with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and four assists on Sunday. It was a pretty typical night. She leads the Tigers in all four of those categories for the season. But what doesn't show up on the stat sheet is her contributions as a leader. She talks to her teammates during nearly ever dead ball.
"Some people learn by verbal. Some people learn by action," Brown said. "I think I give a little bit of both. I talk to them (my teammates) a lot. We try to communicate what has to happen on the floor between one another in order to get the job done. On the second hand, I have to put my words into actions. Not only am I talking about it, but they see me acting on it, I think they want to follow. Any great leader has to have followers."
Brown is right. When her teammates see her giving extra effort on the floor, they want to follow.
"When she does something like that, we're like 'Hey Rae, we're coming with you,'" senior forward Shakara Jones said. "She's our leader. When she's up, we're up."
Brown usually shows her emotions on the court, whether they're good or bad. After unsuccessfully diving for a steal in the first half on Sunday, she got up, chased the dribbler from behind and failed again to steal the ball. She clapped her hands and grimaced in disgust.
Head coach Robin Pingeton said that ever since the second game of the season, she has challenged Brown to be positive with her body language. Pingeton has been pleased with Brown's body language and leadership, although her natural leadership doesn't always complement Pingeton's coaching style.
"Here's the deal with Rae," Pingeton said. "She's so driven and so passionate about it and has a strong voice. I've told her day after day, I'm pretty driven, too. I've got a pretty strong voice, too. There can't be two of us. We've got to do a little bit of the good cop, bad cop. She's used to getting in people's face and challenging them. She still does, but she's got a little bit softer approach to that."
Following Brown's lead, the rest of the Tigers continued to play hard with a big lead in the second half. They forced 26 turnovers, 13 coming from steals.
"We did a good job ignoring the scoreboard and playing with the kind of effort we demand from these girls," Pingeton said.
Missouri used its size advantage to dominate in the post. They outscored NJIT 52-8 in the paint. Christine Flores scored 15, BreAnna Brock had 14 and Jones scored 11.