Unpredictability normal for Missouri women's basketball team

Thursday, January 13, 2011 | 10:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — For the first half of the season, it’s been hard to know what to expect when the Missouri women’s basketball team takes the court. That won’t change Saturday.

No. 7 Texas A&M is coming into Mizzou Arena, and the Tigers may be without their second-leading scorer Christine Flores, who broke a finger in her right hand on Wednesday at Texas Tech. As of Thursday, her status was day-to-day, according to Kate Lakin, an assistant director of media relations for MU athletics.

The injury could change the entire makeup of the team, which had just started to settle on an eight-player rotation. If Flores isn’t able to play, BreAnna Brock would likely get the start. Brock has played well off the bench this season, but the Tigers still need a third post player to give Brock and Shakara Jones a break.

Junior guard Bailey Gee has played the four position at times this season, but the Tigers are likely to turn to freshman Paige Spietz, who has five points this season in limited playing time. Another option is freshman Maggie Flynn, who hasn’t seen game action in over a month.

Flores' injury is just another chapter in what has been an unpredictable first half of the season for Missouri. It all started with two ugly exhibition wins at Mizzou Arena in early November, making Tiger fans think they might be in for a long year.

But Missouri started the regular season with an impressive 27-point win in Memphis. They followed that with a loss at Eastern Illinois.

“We’re still in the development stages,” coach Robin Pingeton said about her team’s inconsistent play. “I don’t know that we can talk about consistency yet until we continue to develop the mental approach to the game, the effort that needs to take place.”

The trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands alone was a roller coaster ride. The Tigers lost by 38 to then-No. 4 Tennessee and lost starting point guard Bekah Mills for the season because of an ACL tear. How did they respond? By upsetting then-No. 12 Georgetown the next day. They finished the tournament with a loss to unranked Georgia Tech.

After going 1-1 in the last two games of a seven-game road trip, the Tigers reeled off five straight victories at home and seemed to finally embrace Pingeton’s new system. Then came back-to-back 32-point losses to ranked teams.

“There’s times when you see some great things out of each one of them,” Pingeton said earlier this season. “But we’re inconsistent with our effort. At times you see greatness, at times you see mediocre.”

Entering Big 12 play, it looked like Missouri would be no match for many teams in the country’s best conference. But the Tigers came back from a late 12-point deficit to upset then-No. 22 Texas at Mizzou Arena.

“We can’t turn back as a team,” Brown said after the win versus Texas. “You display this effort tonight, you can’t go back. You can’t go back and be the team that’s not going to fight hard, not going to work for the loose balls. These are the expectations. We have to move forward from here.”

Wednesday’s game at Texas Tech epitomized the Tigers season thus far. They played well for 30 minutes and held a 10-point lead with 10 minutes to play. But suddenly, for whatever reason, everything went wrong for the Tigers and Texas Tech came back to win.

Despite the ups and downs, Pingeton said she is pleased with the first half of the season overall.

“When you take a step back and look at what we lost, point production, rebounds, minutes played, I think it’s extremely impressive and a huge credit to these young ladies where they’re at today,” Pingeton said. “The buy in, the commitment, the work ethic, the effort. Is it where we want it to be? Absolutely not, but it's many leaps and bounds from where it was eight months ago. For them to be doing what they’re doing, I’m proud of them,”

Flores is third in the Big 12 in blocked shots. Her defensive presence would be missed the most Saturday when the Tigers try to slow down Texas A&M forward Danielle Adams, who leads the Aggies with 21.7 points per game.

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