COLUMBIA — At 5 feet, 11 inches, Bailey Gee looks out of place guarding a bigger post player in the paint. But when she uses her quickness to get around and front her opponent, it’s apparent Gee is no stranger to playing around the rim.
“I was the tallest person on the team in high school,” Gee said. “I played post pretty much my whole life until I got here.”
Kansas Jayhawks (14-5, 1-4 in Big 12)
at Missouri Tigers (9-9, 1-3 in Big 12)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Missouri coach Robin Pingeton and her coaching staff are familiar with Kansas. While Pingeton and her staff were coaching at Illinois State last season, their Redbirds faced the Jayhawks in the quarterfinals of the Women's National Invitation Tournament. Illinois State defeated the Jayhawks, 71-51.
One thing that makes a rivalry great is success from both sides. That’s exactly what you get in the women’s basketball version of the Border Showdown. Kansas holds a 41-36 overall lead in the series against Missouri. Each team has won eight games in head-to-head competition since 2003.
Sophomore forward Carolyn Davis leads the Jayhawks with 18 points per game. Davis scored a game-high 20 points as a freshman the last time Missouri and Kansas played each other. Kansas won that game 61-59 at Mizzou Arena on Jan. 30, 2010.
Senior guard RaeShara Brown leads the Tigers with 16.6 points per game. Ever since junior forward Christine Flores broke her finger on Jan. 12, Brown has shouldered even more of the scoring responsibilities. She has averaged 20 points in the Tigers' last three games.
When she joined the Missouri women's basketball team in 2008, Gee made the transition from center to guard. It’s not a natural position change, but it wasn’t a big deal for Gee. She handled the ball a lot in high school, often bringing the ball up the court when she got a defensive rebound.
The biggest challenge was extending the range of her shot. She has put in a lot of time shooting 3-pointers, something she wasn’t asked to do in high school.
“All I shot were layups and little 15 footers,” Gee said.
Gee is officially listed as a guard on the Missouri roster and has played a lot at that position this season. But she has also spent time playing the four position, which is usually reserved for a forward. Because she is such a versatile player, Gee knows her role is to do whatever coach Robin Pingeton needs.
"Whether she needs me in as a post to rebound or she needs me to get some people open, or something else, I go in and try to do the best I can for her," Gee said.
In addition to never knowing what position she’s going to play, Gee starts each game not knowing when she will see the floor or for how long.
When Missouri played No. 22 Texas, the Tigers trailed by 12 with less than three minutes to play when Gee entered the game for the first time. The Tigers went on a 12-0 run and won in overtime. Gee grabbed two important rebounds.
“She does a lot of the little work, a lot of the dirty work for us,” coach Pingeton said.
Gee said that having the right mindset is vital when waiting on the bench.
“You’ve got to have a positive attitude and just know when you get in, do your best,” she said. “If you’re on a bench thinking negatively, like, ‘Why am I not in?’ it’s not going to help at all when you actually do get in the game.”
Although she’s a junior, Gee lacks experience. She didn’t play much her freshman year, and last year she was playing well before her season was cut short because of a torn ACL.
Gee doesn’t blame the injury for any shortcomings, but Pingeton said she is still working to get more strength in her knee.
“She’s such a perfectionist,” Pingeton said. “The expectations that she puts on herself are so high. She feels like there’s so much more she can be doing. She hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but I think as we go through this conference play, getting more confidence in her knee, getting some more minutes under her belt, she’s the kind of player that’s going to be critical to our success.”
Wednesday’s game versus Kansas is special for Gee, who is from Andover, Kan. The hatred between the two teams is well known, and it factored into Gee’s decision to attend Missouri.
“These are my favorite games to play against K-State and KU,” Gee said. “I’ve lived in Kansas my whole life and all my friends go to those schools, but I’ve always hated them. I don’t know why, but I’ve always hated them. Beating them is what I want to do so bad.”