Cindy Stein is taking her team and going home.
Stein, the Missouri women’s basketball coach, returns to her hometown of Peoria, Ill., today to take on Bradley, where she spent five years as an assistant coach.
MU has won the past seven season-openers. Today’s game at Robertson Field House begins the 30th season of Missouri women’s basketball.
Stein goes into the game seeking her 150th career win, which could come in front of her friends and family.
“I honestly don’t think about it,” Stein said. “There are so many other things we want to do this year, getting my 150th win is really irrelevant.”
One advantage for the Tigers is the team’s strong ties to the region. Besides Stein, LaToya Bond and Blair Hardiek went to high school in Illinois, and Christelle N’Garsanet played at Illinois Central College.
Missouri is 1-1 when playing in Peoria, and Stein is 3-0 against the Braves.
The strong Illinois connection could give the Tigers support on the road, Stein said.
“We will have a little bit more of a homecourt setting then what we normally would on the road,” Stein said.
The Tigers defeated Bradley 77-76 last season thanks to four Kerensa Barr free throws in the final 35 seconds.
Stein said opening the season against a team like Bradley will be a good experience for the team.
“Bradley is a team that is extremely scrappy, very hard-nosed and blue collar,” Stein said. “They will try to chip away if you get a lead, and they will never give up.
“That is exactly what they demonstrated when they were here, and that is why we put them on the schedule.”
Stein went to school with Bradley coach Paula Buscher. The two grew up together and played basketball together at Richwoods High in Peoria.
“I’m really excited about playing them,” Buscher said. “(Stein) is a good friend of mine, and I’ve got a lot of respect for her as a coach. I’m just glad she is coming back to Peoria to play.”
Buscher said Missouri’s up-tempo style would make for a good game and require the Braves to run the floor well and play good transition defense.
Senior forward Evan Unrau could also give the Braves trouble, Buscher said.
“I think (Unrau) is a stud,” Buscher said. “I think she is a player who we are going to have a hard time matching up with.
“She’s a workhorse. That kid is always moving and always playing hard, and I like the way she plays an awful lot.”
Unrau, who had 15 points and six rebounds against Bradley last season, said she feels the team can handle a close game.
“I think we are a lot more experienced this year,” Unrau said. “We’ve been in that situation and we have players who know what to expect for the first game of the year.
“I think we know the mentality it takes to not get ourselves in a position to be in a game that is close.”
Unrau scored 21 points in the Tigers’ two exhibition games this season.
Stein said she won’t let her relationship with her friend get in the way, but said being the older of the two is an advantage.
“I’m older,” Stein said. “I am supposed to win.”