Evan Unrau is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the Missouri women’s basketball team, but this season she is getting help from her teammates.
Whether it’s forward Stretch James dominating the post, point guard LaToya Bond creating off the dribble or shooting guard Tracy Lozier making 3-pointers, Unrau can expect someone to step up today when Missouri plays at St. Louis at 2 p.m. at the Bauman-Eberhardt Center.
In Missouri’s 92-68 win against Miami of Ohio on Friday at Hearnes Center, Unrau led the Tigers with 24 points and 10 rebounds for her third straight double-double and her fifth of the season.
On Friday, though, it was James who provided the extra lift for Missouri. Playing against a Miami team with only one player taller than 6 feet, James, a 6-2 senior, was unstoppable inside, scoring 22 points and grabbing eight rebounds despite seeing limited action in the second half while the Tigers enjoyed a comfortable lead.
“I was worried about being more patient because I’ve been rushing everything the last couple games,” James said. “I was trying to take advantage (of the size mismatch) obviously, but I just wanted to be more patient.”
The Tigers held a 47-39 halftime lead and started the second half with a 10-2 run to put the RedHawks out of reach.
In the past, Missouri coach Cindy Stein has lamented her team’s complacency when playing with a second-half lead, but Stein said she was pleased with the Tigers’ second-half effort against Miami.
“I just thought we were a little bit more active in the second half defensively than we were in the first,” Stein said. “I think in the first, we were still trying to figure out what they were trying to do, and I think in the second, we just played and looked to cover everybody.”
Miami’s Colleen Day led all scorers with 25 points, but Missouri held the RedHawks to 33.8 percent shooting, and Miami could not mount a comeback in the second half.
While James did her part against a smaller Miami team, Bond picked up the pace against a less athletic Iowa team Tuesday in a 75-65 Missouri win. Playing against a slower point guard, Bond finished with 20 points and nine assists against the Hawkeyes, both career-highs.
At other points in the season, Lozier or one of the Tigers’ reserves has provided a scoring lift to compliment Unrau’s consistent output. Unrau, who leads Missouri with 19.7 points per game and 9.4 rebounds, said it’s a plus that Missouri has the personnel to take advantage of each opponent’s weakness.
“It is just a matter of the game and who we play and the matchups,” Unrau said. “(Friday night) Stretch was just having a heyday in there with layups left and right and the other game LaToya was a lot better than that point guard so she took her to the hole every time.
“So I think it is really just a matter of who we are playing and what the matchups are.”
St. Louis (6-6) has struggled recently. The Billikens are on a four-game losing streak. It lost to Southwest Missouri State 72-33 on Thursday in Springfield.
Angie Lewis, who averages 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds, leads the Billikens, who are searching to get back on track in their last game before beginning their Conference USA schedule next week.
Missouri (8-2) will also be playing its final non-conference game. After tough losses to Wisconsin-Green Bay and SMS earlier this season, the Tigers are looking to extend their winning streak to four. It will be their final tune-up before playing at No. 11 Kansas State on Wednesday in the Big 12 Conference opener.
“When we lost those two games early we were all very disappointed in that,” Stein said. “I think we responded well and we definitely had a focus that we want to be 9-2 going into conference play and going into Manhattan (Kan.).”