Shot-blocking ability lifts Tigers

Sunday, December 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:50 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Taking a shot against the University of Missouri women’s basketball team can be tough.

The Tigers (5-2) lead the nation with 51 blocked shots.

Missouri coach Cindy Stein said she credits the number of blocks to her players’ athletic ability.

“(Blocking shots) is not something we are going to spend a lot of time on,” Stein said. “We have a lot of kids who have a knack to block shots.”

The Tigers take on the University of Evansville at 1 p.m. today at Roberts Stadium in Evansville, Ind. The Tigers return to the court after an 11-day break for final exams.

Senior Stretch James blocked a career-high seven shots against Southwest Missouri State. She leads the Big 12 Conference and is ranked 14th in the country with 20 blocks.

James started in the first two games before Stein started senior Melanie Fisher for two games. Since returning to the starting lineup, James is averaging 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games.

James said the games she didn’t start helped her because it gave her a different perspective and the opportunity to see how the other team played.

“(Not starting) helped me get to know what was going on,” James said. “I like to sit there and see where the open gaps are and things like that.”

The Tigers also rank 13th in scoring (80.1 per game), 14th in scoring margin (plus 22.1) and 23rd in rebound margin (plus 9.4).

Stein said she is pleased with how her team has scored points. Missouri has outscored opponents 561-406.

“I want us to get the ball down the floor and I want everybody to be looking to shoot,” Stein said. “We’ve got some very good shooters on this team, that is what they were recruited for, and we need to take advantage of it.

“That is what was disappointing (about last game) when we didn’t have the five (players) looking to (score) because we do have kids who are very good scorers.”

Missouri’s most recent game was a 79-70 loss to Southwest Missouri State on Dec. 10. Three Tigers combined for 53 points, with the next closest player scoring four.

James had her second straight double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds, and senior Evan Unrau scored a season-high 28.

Evansville is coming off a 66-62 win against Tennessee-Martin.

Senior center Jamie Gray leads the Purple Aces (4-3). Gray, who has five double-doubles, is averaging a double-double with 17.9 points and 10 rebounds. Gray is the latest Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after averaging 21.5 points and 12 rebounds last week in two games against Tennessee-Martin and Butler.

“We want to go in there and pressure them a lot,” Stein said. “They have a very good post player and we want to obviously take away all her looks.

The teams have not met since Missouri defeated Evansville 84-81 in first round of the 2000 WNIT. Behind 79-78 in overtime, future WNBA player Amanda Lassiter scored Missouri’s final six points en route to the victory.

Senior guard MyEsha Perkins will join the Tigers in Evansville today. Perkins was cleared Friday to play. Perkins was declared academically ineligible for the fall semester but has been allowed to practice.

“MyEsha brings a lot of quickness at the perimeter spot,” Stein said. “She brings another scorer and she is a very good rebounder for a guard. She gives us a lot more depth (at guard).”

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