COLUMBIA — Robin Pingeton said she often sees the basketball court as a boxing ring where individual matches take place. The Missouri women's basketball coach added that losing those individual boxing matches has plagued the Tigers.
"I think that's been an Achilles' heel for us the last couple games, and that's something you can control," Pingeton said.
Missouri Tigers (10-10, 2-4 in Big 12)
at Iowa State Cyclones (14-5, 2-3 in Big 12)
WHEN: 2 p.m.
WHERE: Hilton Coliseum, Ames, Iowa
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Rebounding: By the Numbers
- Rebounds per game
Iowa State: 40.1
- Rebounding margin
Missouri: +1.3 per game
Iowa State: +8.1 per game
- Leading rebounder
Missouri: RaeShara Brown, 6.5 per game
Iowa State: Chelsea Poppens, 6.9 per game
A key matchup in Missouri's game on Saturday at Iowa State will be on the inside post. The Cyclones average more than 40 rebounds per game and out-rebound their opponents at a rate of 8 per game. Missouri checks in at 38.8 rebounds per game and bests its opponents by an average of just over one.
Iowa State holds the slight lead in rebounds per game despite taking fewer shots and allowing fewer from opponents. The Cyclones' five leading shot takers average fewer than eight shots per game, whereas Missouri's leading five take more than nine per game. Pingeton implementing a fast-paced, motion offense has increased the Tigers' shot volume.
Missouri won the inside battle in a victory over Kansas on Wednesday, out-rebounding the Jayhawks, 27-21. The Tigers also bested the Jayhawks 22-18 in points in the paint and 15-1 in second-chance points, which were key to ending a four-game losing streak.
"We had a mindset that we wanted to change how things were going," Missouri guard RaeShara Brown said. "We had some tough losses coming in, but we had to push those behind us."
Missouri forward BreAnna Brock had the task of defending Kansas forward Aishah Sutherland, who entered the game leading the Big 12 in rebounding at 8.9 per game.
Brock made sure to bring down that average. She continually jumped higher and reached farther than Sutherland, holding the 6-foot-2 Kansas forward to five rebounds while tying teammate Shakara Jones with a game-high eight of her own.
"I felt like we over-exaggerated our effort to get to loose balls. I thought it was contagious," Pingeton said after the game. "And I really think that set the tone."
Sutherland and Kansas forward Carolyn Davis have separated themselves from the rest of the Jayhawks in the rebounding category. Iowa State presents a better balance, though.
Four of the Cyclone's regular starters average at least five rebounds per game, with Chelsea Poppens leading the way at an average near seven per game. Brock, averaging 3.5 rebounds-per-game, will need to raise her average to contain Poppens on the inside.
"We're going against programs that have been established, have a system in place and have their recruits there," Pingeton said. "The problem is that we just don't have that experience and that depth that can get us over the hump all the time."
Pingeton is trying to give experience to more players on the Missouri roster. Nine players average more than 10 minutes per game. Guard play from Sydney Crafton and Trenee Thornton has taken pressure off of Brown, Missouri's scoring leader. Pingeton credits improved practices for producing a more balanced rotation.
"I thought that on Monday, we had the best practice in the nine months that I've been here. It all starts there," Pingeton said.
Missouri has struggled in Big 12 roadplay this season. The Tigers are 2-1 at Mizzou Arena, but have lost all three conference road games to Texas Tech, Kansas State and Colorado. Saturday's game in Ames, Iowa, presents an even greater challenge.
Not only is Iowa State ranked No. 20 in the USA Today Coaches poll, but the Cyclones lead the Big 12 in attendance at home with an average of 8,841 fans packing into the Hilton Coliseum each game. The Cyclones are 10-1 overall at home, and 1-1 in conference play. Pingeton is excited to play in Ames, though.
"It's an awesome place to play, there's no doubt about it," Pingeton said. "I don't care if they're for me or against me, I love that kind of environment."