Missouri coach Cindy Stein likes to win, especially championships.
That is what Missouri will try to do starting today at the Oneida Bingo and Casino Holiday Tournament in Green Bay, Wis.
“I love tournaments because I like to win championships and that’s what it is all about,” Stein said. “(Tournaments) just add a whole different element to it and helps prepare you down the road for a lot of things.”
The Tigers will also try to exorcise some demons in the process this weekend.
Last year, Missouri embarked on its Thanksgiving trip to the Flint Hill Resources Islander Classic in Corpus Christi, Texas, with a 2-0 record. The Tigers came back disenchanted after two extremely disappointing losses to Southern Methodist and Louisiana Lafayette.
“Last Thanksgiving . . . was absolutely horrible,” Missouri guard Evan Unrau said. “I think a lot of us are looking forward to going to Wisconsin and getting a couple wins up there.”
On top of Missouri’s Thanksgiving tournament woes, the Tigers first opponent in Green Bay is Austin Peay. Last December, the Lady Govs beat Missouri 66-53 in the championship game of the Unilever Tiger Classic at Hearnes Center.
In that game, Missouri managed only 18 first-half points on 20 percent shooting and the foul-plagued Tigers never recovered. The loss was Missouri’s first at home and magnified the Tiger’s early season frustration against nonconference opponents.
When asked if the Tigers are approaching the game against Austin Peay as a measuring stick, Stein hinted that Missouri hasn’t forgotten its loss to the Lady Govs last season.
“Austin Peay is a team that we are very focused on,” Stein said.
While the Tigers never fully recovered from their early season setbacks, Austin Peay went on to a 27-4 record, won the Ohio Valley Conference but lost to North Carolina 72-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
This year, Austin Peay (1-1) has a new coach, Andy Blackston, and is without Brooke Armistead, a four-year starter who scored 2,503 points in her career. Gerlonda Hardin is filling Armistead’s role early this year, averaging 18 points and 5.5 rebounds.
If Missouri beats Austin Peay it will play the winner of Wisconsin-Green Bay (2-0) and Centenary (2-2) in the championship game Saturday.
Wisconsin-Green Bay could be a tough opponent after going 28-4 last year and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite losing four starters from last year’s team, the Phoenix received votes in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll this week.
By Saturday night, Missouri will have played three games in four days, but Stein welcomes the challenge against good competition.
“Green Bay is a tough place to play and I like that kind of environment,” Stein said. “We are trying to put our team in position to get better and I think this one will be a good one for us.”