COLUMBIA – The Missouri women’s basketball team was on a roll. Everything seemed to be coming together. The ball was finally moving well in new head coach Robin Pingeton’s motion offense. Shots were starting to fall. Unproven players were stepping up and playing well. The Tigers entered 2011 on a five-game winning streak.
Then they played Florida State.
Missouri Tigers (8-5) at No. 9 Xavier Musketeers (10-2)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
WHERE: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Missouri shot a season-low 26 percent and was dominated in nearly every phase of the game in a 32-point loss to the Seminoles on Sunday. It was the kind of loss that could erase all the confidence the young Tigers had gained, but Pingeton doesn’t think it will.
“It’s just making sure that when you face adversity like this, and you face these road blocks that you don’t allow the slippage from a chemistry standpoint and a from locker room standpoint of pointing fingers and feeling sorry for yourself,” Pingeton said. “I really don’t think we’ll get that out of this group. I think we’ve come a long way in the last eight months from that standpoint.”
The Tigers don’t have much time to recover from the loss. They travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to face No. 9 Xavier on Wednesday. It will be Missouri’s final game of one of its toughest nonconference schedules in years.
The upside of the schedule is the number of opportunities it presents.
“This loss, just like anyone else, it sucks, it hurts,” senior guard RaeShara Brown said after the loss to Florida State. “You can’t get this one back, but we’ve got another one Wednesday. We’ve got another chance to play a statement game. We’ve got another chance to prove not only to ourselves but to everybody else that we can compete with these teams.”
Missouri has already shown an ability to rebound quickly after a tough loss. They lost to Tennessee by 38 points on Thanksgiving in the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The next day, they upset Georgetown, which was ranked 12th in the nation at the time.
The win over Georgetown isn’t the only thing that will give the Tigers at least some confidence heading into Wednesday’s game. Xavier reached the Elite Eight a season ago, but when they came to Columbia last January, the Tigers gave them a scare.
The No. 16 Musketeers were ahead by 15 points with five minutes to play when a Missouri run cut the lead to four with two minutes to play, but Xavier went on to win 68-60. Christine Flores, who has been the go-to player for the Tigers over the past three games, led Missouri with 19 points.
The Tigers will face the same challenges they did a year ago. The Tigers shot just 3-of-16 from 3-point range against Xavier in 2010. This year, they are shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc. But their toughest test will be in the paint.
A year ago, 6-foot-5 forward Amber Harris and 6-foot-6 center Ta’Shia Phillips each scored 13 points against Missouri. This year, the two seniors make up one of the best front lines in the country. Harris leads the Musketeers with 20 points per game. Phillips is second with 13.3.
The physical play seemed to bother Missouri in their loss to Florida State, and the Tigers are likely to see even more physicality from a big Xavier team. Having already played three games against ranked teams, Missouri is aware of what is in store for them in Cincinnati.
“Anytime you play a top-25 team, it’s going to be physical,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to up our level of play.”