Point guards lead effort to reduce turnovers for Missouri women's basketball

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 6:46 p.m. CST; updated 7:49 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 6, 2013
MU guard Lianna Doty drives to the basket during the game against South Carolina on Feb. 28 at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA — When it came to the turnovers that plagued the Missouri women's basketball team during its five-game losing streak, it was difficult to know where to start.

It was a problem that kept coach Robin Pingeton up at night.

She went back to it over and over again in press conferences, her normally calm coaching demeanor giving way to a raised voice tinged with frustration.

"I think the hard thing is, it's different players on different nights," Pingeton said. "When one player kind of shores it up a little bit and is a little bit stronger with the ball, we've got another person that steps up and fills that void of having some careless mistakes."

To begin to attack the problem, she decided to start at the top of the key.

All season, Pingeton has been mixing and matching her two point guards, sophomore Kyley Simmons and freshman Lianna Doty, trying to find just the right combination.

Simmons is a more typical point guard with a year of experience as a starter under her belt. She averaged around 1.5 turnovers per game during the regular season.

Doty, a risk-taking freshman, leads the team in assists and steals but also in turnovers, averaging nearly five per game.

"Her Achilles' heel has been playing too fast," Pingeton said of Doty. "We joke maybe sometimes we should have her run four miles before the game to slow her down a little bit." 

Doty has taken to the film room, rewatching mistakes and working in practice to eliminate them.

"A lot of them are miscommunication errors," Doty said. "So you say, 'OK, next time, this is what we're going to do: Make eye contact, or let me know where you're going, so I can know those kinds of things.'"

Simmons joined her teammate in honing in on turnovers.

"There comes a point in time when you just have to know not to make the iffy pass," Simmons said. "That was our big thing. Together, we just had to be more focused on what we're doing and who we're passing to."

Simmons said she watched Doty to pick up on ways to be more aggressive on defense, while Doty watched Simmons for an example of how to stay in control while still creating plays.

The pair helped the team cut down on turnovers and win its last two regular-season games, combining for only four turnovers against South Carolina and three against Alabama. 

In her team's first year in the defense-oriented Southeastern Conference, Pingeton said she was encouraged by the growth in her young players. 

"You look at some of the other great point guards in the SEC, they are surrounded by other (future) WNBA players, All-American kids," Pingeton said. "I think it makes your job a little bit easier. We're not there yet."

Missouri will look to continue cutting down on turnovers in this week's SEC tournament. The Tigers already have 17 wins and are eligible for postseason play, but any victories this week could help improve the team's standing.

Missouri received the No. 10 seed in the tournament and will open play with a game on Thursday in Duluth, Ga., against Vanderbilt. 

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