COLUMBIA — Eight minutes into the second half of the Missouri women’s basketball game against Oklahoma State on Wednesday, BreAnna Brock dropped to the court as if shot by a sniper. There didn’t seem to be much contact — if any — but the junior forward lay near the 3-point line, clutching her left knee. The entire arena went quiet, and everyone could hear Brock screaming in pain.
“The thought about getting back on the floor was the biggest thing on my mind,” Brock said.
Missouri (12-14, 4-8) travels to Lincoln, Neb. to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers (12-14, 2-10) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Freshman Jordan Hooper leads the Cornhuskers with 14.9 points per game. In the first matchup of the year on Feb. 2, Hooper scored 31 points and led Nebraska back from a 17-point halftime deficit. Nebraska took the lead with just over four minutes to play, but Missouri won 76-69, thanks in large part to 22 points scored in the second half by RaeShara Brown. The loss was the first of Nebraska’s current six-game losing streak.
Brock didn’t return to the game. Her kneecap had popped out of place. She didn’t practice before the Tigers headed to Lawrence to face Kansas on Saturday, but she was cleared to play in the game.
“I didn’t really know what my knee was going to be able to do,” Brock said. “I just tried not to think about the injury at all. I just wanted to play. I wasn’t going to sit out that game.”
She ended up playing 20 minutes and scoring 12 points.
“I didn’t really anticipate playing her that much, but I didn’t really know,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “A lot of it was going to depend on how she looked when she got out there.”
Brock looked fine getting up and down the floor, even though her knee was still bruised and a little sore. Brock doesn’t expect the soreness to slow her down at all in upcoming games either. Her toughness doesn’t surprise Pingeton, who is amazed at the growth she’s seen in Brock.
“We’re looking at a completely different Bre than we did three months ago even,” Pingeton said. “She’s emotionally and physically invested.”
Brock was forced to enter Saturday’s game earlier than expected when the brace on forward Christine Flores’ right middle finger fell off one minute into the game. Flores has been dealing with pain in the finger after breaking it in the Jan. 12 game against Texas Tech.
After sitting out one game after the injury, Flores averaged fewer than eight points per game over the next seven. She was averaging over 16 per game before the injury. Flores, who had been a reliable perimeter shooter, was struggling with her shot.
“She tried to continue playing the way she had been before hurting her finger,” Pingeton said. “She was shooting way too many outside shots early on with her injury, settling for the outside shot instead of just being able to get around the basket, around the paint.”
Pingeton told Flores there were ways she could contribute without scoring a lot of points.
“I’ve tried to develop in other ways like passing and defense, something different,” Flores said. “Because if I can’t score, I’ve got to put something out there for the team.”
Both Flores and Pingeton mentioned that playing with a broken finger requires an adjusting period, but it was getting to the point where that period should have been over. Although there was a lot of pain, Flores’ struggles may have had more to do with her mentality than the injury itself.
“Since my finger (injury), I haven’t had as much confidence,” Flores said. “I’ve had the mindset that I’m going to get hurt and always thinking the worst. And that’s not me.”
Flores told herself before the Oklahoma State game that it was time to put all her fears behind her. She scored 23 points and led the Tigers’ comeback win with two crucial 3-pointers down the stretch.
“She’s definitely back on track now, and I can’t think of a better time,” Pingeton said.
Flores still feels pain in the finger, and her shot isn’t as sharp as it was before the injury. Consequently, she’s not quite back to the level of play she was at when the injury occurred, but she’s getting more confident every game.
Although the injuries of Brock and Flores are frustrating, both are fortunate they’re not in the same situation as some of their teammates.
“It’s not an ACL tear. It’s not a season-ending injury,” Flores said. “Still being able to play is a blessing.”