Title looks in reach

The Tigers have never lost in the first round of the Unilever Tournament.
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:40 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

If history repeats itself, Missouri will play in the championship game Saturday.

The Missouri women’s basketball team takes on Alcorn State in the first round of the 26th annual Unilever Tiger Tournament at 7 tonight at Hearnes Center.

Missouri (3-1) has had success hosting the tournament. Missouri is 42-8 in the tournament and has never lost the opening-round game.

Tonight’s game will be the first meeting between the teams. Alcorn State (0-3) is picked to finish third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

MU coach Cindy Stein said Alcorn State might be a challenge.

“Alcorn State presents some problems for us,” Stein said. “They are quick, they’ve got some explosiveness inside, they are very good offensive rebounders and are forcing teams into 20 turnovers. Despite their record they are still going to create problems.”

Last season, Missouri lost the tournament’s title game 66-53 to Austin Peay, breaking a five-year streak of championships. Missouri avenged the loss one week ago, defeating Austin Peay 78-43 during the first round of the Oneida Bingo and Casino Holiday Tournament in Green Bay, Wis.

Missouri is coming off Saturday’s 74-66 loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay in the tournament’s championship game. Seniors Evan Unrau and Stretch James combined for 44 points and 20 rebounds.

Stein said her team is learning from the loss.

“I think our maturity came out throughout the course of the game against Green Bay,” Stein said. “We played horrible that first half, and we didn’t make a lot of breaks for ourselves.

“We showed character being able to come back from a deficit like that. You can’t be in a position like that at halftime and expect to win.”

At 5 p.m., Tulsa (2-0) and UAB (1-3) meet in the other first-round game.

Stein said her team isn’t focused on its first-round winning streak and is conscious of the other schools in the tournament.

“I would be extremely disappointed if we didn’t win the tournament, but Tulsa is a very good team,” Stein said. “UAB is a team that has the potential to be very good if they can get some things together because they have some kids that are very skilled.”

Missouri plays at 7 Saturday night regardless of tonight’s results.

Stein said a home tournament is a good opportunity for the fans and the players.

“We get two quality games in here, and it’s at home, and they are sleeping in their own beds,” Stein said. “Any time you can sleep in your own bed, it’s a plus.”

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