Senior Melanie Fisher doesn’t do it often, but she is starting to yell.
Missouri plays at Kansas at 3 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan.
The Tigers (9-6, 0-4 Big 12 Conference) are on a four-game losing streak.
Fisher, a 6-foot-2 center, is soft spoken, but a talk with Missouri coach Cindy Stein convinced Fisher to take on a different personality on the court.
“Coach Stein has talked a lot about how we need to assume a responsibility that is not necessarily within your personality, if it makes the team better, especially if it is a role that you can fit into well,” Fisher said.
Fisher has started the past four games, which coincided with the beginning of Big 12 play and the loss of sophomore guard LaToya Bond to a broken left foot. Fisher is averaging 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds this season.
Fisher played softball for Missouri and said she has been part of teams that have had slow starts before.
“I am one that isn’t going to get discouraged easily because I’ve been around for a long time,” Fisher said. “I am used to seeing ups and downs and it’s not going to faze me. We’ve lost four and we just have got to get back on track.”
Fisher is not a dominating force inside, but she has become an ever-present figure on the court that keeps the Tigers talking.
“Melanie kind of takes it upon herself to be a really good communicator out there on the floor,” Stein said. “She brings a lot of energy to us and she is kind of our calming factor.”
Bond’s injury has forced Missouri to change around its lineup. Freshman guard Blair Hardiek started the first two Big 12 games, but freshman forward Carlynn Savant replaced Hardiek and has started the past two games.
Stein said Fisher is great at working with younger players and is an outstanding leader, both on and off the court.
Saturday’s game is the first meeting between Kansas (8-8, 1-4) and Missouri since a fight broke out at midcourt after Kansas’ 55-52 win Jan. 10 at Missouri.
On Jan. 14 the Big 12 suspended Missouri guard MyEsha Perkins and center Christelle N’Garsanet for one game each. Stein suspended Perkins for a second game.
The Big 12 noted that Kansas coach Marian Washington violated conference policy concerning public statement when she made comments to the Kansas City Star on Jan. 12.
“I don’t see any reason to discipline anyone,” Washington said to the Star.
The Big 12 decided differently and suspended three Jayhawks. Sophomore Tamara Ransburg, a forward/center, was suspended for attempting to punch Perkins, junior forward Kandis Bonner was suspended for kicking at Perkins, and junior guard Larisha Graves was suspended for grabbing and throwing N’Garsanet to the floor. The Big 12 also publicly reprimanded freshman forward Lauren Ervin for taunting Missouri at midcourt before the fight.
Fisher said she isn’t worried about Missouri’s struggles in the Big 12.
“It is so important not to lose hope early, and just to keep going after it and keep going out and becoming a better team every night,” Fisher said. “Whether you win or lose you’ve got to get better, otherwise you aren’t preparing yourself for the next game.”