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Columbia Missourian

Young Missouri women's basketball team continues to learn

By Taylor Vortherms
January 13, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missouri guard Lianna Doty passes the ball around Tennessee forward Taber Spani on Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri women’s basketball team is a different squad at home than it is in away games.

Both teams face the same disadvantages in experience and size, but the tough environments on the road pose a challenge the young Tigers have yet to overcome.

Sunday's game

No. 6 Kentucky (15-1, 3-0 SEC)
at Missouri (12-5, 1-2 SEC)

WHEN: 12:30 p.m
Mizzou Arena
KTGR/100.5 & 103.1 FM

"We’ve got a lot of young kids learning what it takes to be successful on the road, learning how to play against the kind of pressure we’re going to be playing against in the SEC," coach Robin Pingeton said. "It’s part of the process."

Missouri lost 84-39 at Tennessee on Thursday night. The 45-point margin came just days after the team earned its first SEC win against Auburn and totaled 18 3-pointers. The Tigers’ ability to shoot threes has been a key part of their game, and they currently lead the nation with an average of 9.9 3-pointers made per game.

“We’ve got to be able to bring that consistency on the road, and we’re only going to get better as the season goes on,” sophomore guard Morgan Eye said. “That’s what is going to make this team great.”

With six freshmen and only one player having played with Missouri for more than a year, it is the youngest team in the SEC.

The Tigers are 11-0 at home, but they remain 0-3 on the road after losses at Memphis, Georgia and Tennessee. In those games, the team made 21 of its 84 3-point shots and turned over the ball 62 times.

At Tennessee, the Tigers made just 4-of-30 2-point attempts. Nine of their shots were blocked, highlighting Missouri’s height deficit. Three of Tennessee’s top six players in minutes played are 6-foot-2 or taller. Missouri’s biggest starter is 6- foot-1 center Liz Smith, who shot 0-for-3.

Pingeton said she expected to encounter these struggles against established programs with veteran players, and her strategy for improvement remains simple.

"Just through experience playing in different tough environments," Pingeton said. "Look how much better Moe (Morgan Eye) is from a year ago."

Auburn also had a size advantage over Missouri, but it didn’t stop Eye from hitting a school-record of 11 3-pointers. Against Tennessee, she had six three-pointers but missed 11 from behind the arc and turned the ball over five times.

"Building a program doesn’t happen overnight," Pingeton said. "We are laying a foundation, brick by brick, and there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from wins and from losses."

Missouri (12-5) will host Kentucky (15-1) on Sunday. The Wildcats are ranked No. 6 in the nation and have won 14 straight games.