Young Missouri women's basketball team tries to overcome tough losses

Saturday, February 16, 2013 | 6:54 p.m. CST
Missouri center Liz Smith fights for possession of the ball with Arkansas guard Melissa Wolff during a game Thursday at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers lost 58-50 to the Razorbacks.

COLUMBIA — Robin Pingeton summed up the past couple of weeks for the Missouri women’s basketball team in one phrase — a roller coaster.

In her 20 years of coaching, Pingeton said she has never felt an emotional high and low like beating No. 9 Tennessee and then losing to struggling Mississippi State seven days later.

"Never have we had a chance in the three years we've been here so far to really talk to our players about going from a high like we had against Florida and Tennessee," Pingeton said. "Those are feelings and emotions our team hadn't experienced before."

Missouri is the only team to beat one of the Southeastern Conference's top four teams and lose to one of the bottom four.

“It hurt,” center Liz Smith said of the loss to Mississippi State. “You just have to take 24 hours, let it sink in and then move forward."

After the loss the Mississippi State on Feb. 10 at Mizzou Arena, the Tigers lost 62-46 at Vanderbilt on Thursday to make their record 15-10 overall, and 4-7 in conference play.

With six freshmen on the team, Pingeton attributed the setbacks to inexperience in handling signature wins like Missouri's upset of No. 9 Tennessee.

"I just think with a young team, there's a lot of defining moments. I was really disappointed with our Arkansas game,” Pingeton said. “ I wasn’t happy with the Memphis trip — but again, young team on the road, tough environment. Arkansas didn't sit very well with me.”

Missouri lost to Arkansas 58-50 on Jan. 24 at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers will face the Razorbacks again Sunday — this time, on the road. Arkansas is currently ranked second in the SEC in field goal defense.

The Tigers' ability to score had been the least of Pingeton's concerns until recently. Missouri has made a school-record 216 3-pointers this season. The previous record was set at 214 by last year’s squad.

But lately, the team has been struggling from long range, shooting 3-for-20 from behind the arc against Mississippi State and 4-for-27 against Vanderbilt.

"I think you’ve got to be awfully careful talking about shooting," Pingeton said. "It’s a fine line there because that becomes mental."

Missouri must earn one more win to guarantee at least a .500 overall record, which would qualify the Tigers for the Women's National Invitation Tournament. They have not advanced to the WNIT since the 2006-2007 season when the team went 17-14.

"You look at Arkansas and Mississippi State, and we felt like those were games we could have had," Pingeton said. "But you’ve got to go through these fires to learn and grow and understand the importance of moving on to the next games."

The Tigers' game Sunday at Arkansas starts a five-game stretch to conclude the regular season. Missouri will then host LSU, travel to Auburn, host South Carolina and finish at Alabama.

"We’re going to have ups and downs, but we just do our best to stay consistent," Smith said. "We're going to finish out the season strong. We're ready to get 'em."

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