Missouri women's basketball faces another tough road test at No. 9 Tennessee

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 | 8:28 p.m. CST
Holly Warlick took over as Tennessee head coach this season after legendary coach Pat Summitt stepped down after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Warlick has the Volunteers off to an 11-3 start, including four wins over top 25 teams.

They fell in Memphis, Tenn. They fell in Athens, Ga.

Now, they'll try to avoid defeat in the mecca of women's basketball.

The Missouri women's basketball team has a perfect 11-0 record at home, but the young squad has struggled away from Mizzou Arena.

Things won't get easier anytime soon.

After earning its first Southeastern Conference win against Auburn on Sunday, the Tigers are set to travel to Knoxville, Tenn., for a matchup against No. 9 Tennessee, the winningest program in NCAA women's basketball.

While legendary coach Pat Summitt stepped down after last season after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, she still serves as head coach emeritus and attends the Volunteers' home games.

"I grew up big a Pat Summitt fan," Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. "I still am. I grew up reading her books. I just have so much respect for who she is, what she's done, how she's done it."

New coach Holly Warlick, a Summitt disciple, has the Volunteers off to an 11-3 start, including four wins over Top 25 teams. 

Although Pingeton had a chance to coach against Summitt in a 2010 tournament at the Virgin Islands, she said this will be the first trip to Tennessee's Thompson-Boling Arena for both her and her players. 

"We certainly have so much respect for that program, for Pat, and for what Holly's doing there," Pingeton said. "I think it's a great opportunity. I know our kids are really looking forward to it. We've got to make sure they don't have too much of the 'awe factor' coming in."

If the Tigers don't get caught up in the mystique of the arena, they'll still likely be facing a large opposing crowd. Tennessee has topped the NCAA in average attendance at women's basketball games for 15 of the past 16 years. 

Despite the Missouri team's struggles on the road — a 1-4 record that includes a last-second loss Dec. 28 at Memphis and a blowout Jan. 3 at No. 13 Georgia — Pingeton said she has no plans to alter Missouri's pregame routine. 

With a team as young at Missouri, she said the team will adjust to the experience of playing on the road over time.

"We can talk and talk and talk in the locker room about how to prepare for road teams, and there's certainly some teachable moments there, but you have to have that experience in the SEC," she said. "I honestly think it's part of the process."

Missouri and Tennessee will tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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