COLUMBIA — There's a striking contrast between the Missouri basketball teams this season. The senior heavy men's team is on the hunt for a Big 12 title, while the young women's team is still looking for its first conference victory.
The situation is both frustrating and inspiring for the women's team.
No. 14 Texas A&M (17-6, 8-4 Big 12)
at Missouri (10-13, 0-12 Big 12)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/ 100.5 FM, 1580 AM
"It's exciting for the men," senior center Christine Flores said. "I'm not going to take that away from them at all, that is a great accomplishment. For us, it is a little frustrating. If it's not frustrating, you're in the wrong sport, and you shouldn't be here in the first place."
The men's rise to No. 3 in the national rankings can work in favor of the women's team and is hopefully a sign of things to come for the program.
"I couldn't be more happy for our men's team," women's coach Robin Pingeton said. "Our time will come. We're excited for them, it helps our recruiting, and our day is coming, there's no doubt about it."
For as much time as both teams spend in the hallways of Mizzou Arena, both Pingeton and Flores said they don't share much interaction with the men's team outside of brief everyday encounters. Nevertheless, it's hard not to notice the way the men's team conducts itself.
"The way they get focused — they're really serious, they're really into it, just as much as they commit themselves to basketball — it's inspiring," Flores said. "Looking at their team, I think, 'That's the effort you have to put in on the court.' When you watch a game, they give everything they have. You just got to keep pushing yourself to get to that limit, and they do inspire me a little bit."
For Flores, the Tigers' leading scorer and top post player, it's been especially rewarding watching Ricardo Ratliffe this season. Ratliffe leads the nation in shooting percentage at roughly 73 percent.
"He's a great post player. When he gets in there, it's him and the player behind him," Flores said. "He doesn't think about anything else, at least that's what it looks like. He makes it look easy. That's something you always strive for, making the game look easy."
But it hasn't been that easy for the women's team. The Tigers are still seeking their first conference win of the season after losing on the road Saturday at Oklahoma, a tough loss in which the Tigers nearly overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half.
The road ahead doesn't get any easier for the Tigers either. They host No. 14 Texas A&M — which won the national championship last season — on Tuesday. Missouri lost the previous match-up 78-52 on Jan. 18.