COLUMBIA — After opening Big 12 Conference play at 0-3, it would be easy for Missouri women's basketball coach Robin Pingeton to list reasons why the Tigers have struggled.
Missouri began the season 10-1 before losing to No. 1 Baylor, No. 17 Texas Tech and Kansas State in its past three games. The Tigers could blame their recent struggles on youth and inexperience, excessive turnovers, lack of discipline or perhaps simply to their opponents playing better, but Pingeton and her team refuse to even think about wallowing in self-pity.
at Missouri (10-4)
WHEN: 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
TV: FSN Midwest
"Don't think we're making excuses, because we're not, we're being realists," Pingeton said. "There's not another team in the Big 12 that has the youth and inexperience that we do, and it's just part of the building process. It just doesn't happen overnight, the first couple of years are challenging."
Pingeton's honesty about her program gives her players even more motivation to strive to improve, simply because they know they're only going to get better with time.
"The younger (players) don't know that we've been in a slump the past four years, but it has gotten so much better honestly, just in the level of play," senior Christine Flores said. "Being in a slump doesn't mean anything right now. Just because the first three games didn't go the way we wanted to doesn't mean our season is over."
That's not to say there aren't aspects of Missouri's game that need improvement, especially throughout the past three games. Kansas State scored 24 points off 18 Missouri turnovers on Jan. 11. Missouri, which averages 6.7 3-point shots per game, made just one 3-pointer against the Wildcats.
"We need to eliminate some of the silly turnovers we've been having," said freshman Morgan Eye, who has become Missouri's 3-point specialist. "Personally I need to start hitting my shots that I hit early on. I'm kind of hitting a cold spell, but I've been in the gym hitting some shots recently."
Flores also stressed the importance of shooting better from the perimeter, especially against some of the better Big 12 defenses that have been able to stifle her and BreAnna Brock down low.
"I've had a lot of pressure these past three games that I'm not really used to," Flores said. "For me and BreAnna, we can only do so much when we have two or three people on us, and that's where we have to be able to kick it out and shots need to be falling for us because otherwise they can just double down on us."
If the Tigers want to be successful against Kansas on Sunday, Pingeton said her team needs to refocus on its play under the basket by getting the ball to Flores and Brock, which will open up shots for Eye and Missouri's other guards.
"We have to rely a little bit more heavily on our post game," Pingeton said. "We have to make sure they're getting enough shots inside because we are an inside-out team. We struggled a little bit from the perimeter, but we aren't going to feel sorry for ourselves or waver. We're going to work ourselves through that."
Missouri plays Kansas at Mizzou Arena for the last time in the foreseeable future, but Pingeton is trying not to put too much emphasis on the rivalry.
"It's a great rivalry, I respect it and I understand what goes into it from a fan standpoint, from a media standpoint and from a university standpoint," she said. "But for us, it's another opportunity for us to grow our program."