Missouri takes on depleted Nebraska women's basketball team

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 | 6:19 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The 2009-10 season was a magical one for the Nebraska women’s basketball team.

When the Cornhuskers came to Columbia on Feb. 13, they had won their first nine conference games of the season and were 22-0 overall, including five convincing wins over ranked opponents. They were the third-ranked team in the nation.

Missouri had won just one of its first 10 conference games, but the records didn’t seem to matter much that day. The Tigers' offense put on a shooting clinic against one of the better defensive teams in the country. Missouri led by six with less than three minutes to play before Nebraska ended the game on a 10-0 run to win 82-78.

“Those guys fought their rear ends off,” Nebraska coach Connie Yori said of the Tigers after escaping with the win.

No other team challenged Nebraska as much as Missouri did for the rest of the regular season. The Cornhuskers finally lost in the second round of the Big 12 tournament to Texas A&M. They fell to Kentucky after reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament.

Reflecting back on the near-upset of Nebraska last season can do one of two things for the Tigers. It can remind them they can play with the best teams in the country, or it can be just another example of how the Tigers have had a tendency in recent years to let close games slip away from them.

A third option would be to not think about it at all. That’s what Missouri appears to be doing.

“Last year was a different team” was all Tigers senior forward Shakara Jones had to say.

She’s right. The Tigers are a much different team — but maybe more importantly, so are the Cornhuskers.

Three 2009-10 first-team All-Big 12 selections from Nebraska — Kelsey Griffin, Yvonne Turner and Cory Montgomery ­— have graduated. The three combined for 45 points a game last season. Griffin was the Big 12 Player of the Year, and Turner was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year along with Baylor’s Brittney Griner.

This season, four Cornhuskers score in double figures, led by freshman Jordan Hooper’s 14.5 per game. But the team averages just 66.9 points per game, 11.5 fewer than a year ago. It’s resulted in a 12-8 record and a 2-4 start to conference play.

Wednesday will be the last time the Nebraska women’s basketball team comes to Columbia as a member of the Big 12 conference. Nebraska leads the all-time series 39-30, including wins in the past three matchups and seven of the past nine. The Cornhuskers’ move to the Big Ten will probably put an end to the series, but that doesn’t provide any extra motivation for the Tigers.

“This year, every game we’ve been taking a stance of going in there and playing hard for 40 minutes every game. Tomorrow won’t be any different,” Jones said on Tuesday. “I don’t think them moving conferences will change our mentality.”

RaeShara Brown scored 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and Christine Flores added 13 points when Nebraska came to Columbia last year, giving Missouri a reason to think it can score against the Cornhuskers. When the Tigers have struggled this year, it’s been when they can’t find their offense. Their 60.1 points per game is easily last in the Big 12.

The Tigers bring a 2-5 conference record into Wednesday’s game. On paper, it looks to be a pretty even matchup, with a slight edge to the Cornhuskers. But as last year’s Missouri versus Nebraska game proved, games don’t always play out as predicted.

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