Injuries continue to come at inopportune times for Missouri.
For the second time in four days, the MU women’s basketball team tried to beat a ranked opponent, but failed, losing 68-66 to No. 11 Colorado on Saturday at Hearnes Center.
Missouri defeated No. 20 Oklahoma 77-65 on Wednesday for its first win against a ranked team since Jan. 9, 2002.
Senior center Melanie Fisher left with 14:20 left in the first half after hitting the court hard while diving for a loose ball. Fisher started and was doing a good job of keeping the ball away from Colorado center Tera Bjorklund. Fisher needed to be helped off the court and went to the locker room before the end of the half. She did not return.
“We know she has a strained lower back,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said.
Fisher was taken for X-rays but the extent of her injury is unknown, Stein said.
Fisher made her debut Nov. 16 in Missouri’s second exhibition game after missing the first preseason game with an unspecified lower-back injury.
“She does so much for us,” Stein said. “She was doing such a great job down low, but I thought we had other kids step up and do a really good job also.
“But obviously that was an experience factor that was removed. She has always been a calming effect. You’ve got to move on.”
Missouri stumbled, losing its first four conference games, when sophomore guard LaToya Bond broke her left foot Jan. 4 at Saint Louis University.
In fewer than six minutes, Fisher had three rebounds, one block and one steal. More important, she helped stop Bjorklund from scoring.
Containing Bjorklund was a key for Missouri. In Missouri’s 71-54 loss Jan. 18 at Colorado, Bjorklund scored Colorado’s first three layups en route to a game-high 21 points.
Bjorklund started the game leading the Buffaloes in scoring, averaging 17 points and 7.8 rebounds, but was scoreless until she made a layup with 11:43 left to cut the Tigers’ lead to 15-10.
“(Bjorklund) is so tough,” Stein said. “You know you are going to give her points, you just want to try to make them as hard as possible. We did a good job of trying to do what we could with her. She is very good and very tough to stop.”
Bjorklund finished with 19 points and five rebounds. She scored 12 in the first half, eight of which were scored in the 2:18 stretch after her first layup.
Missouri’s defense did a good job against Bjorklund without Fisher. The Tigers rotated among five players to defend Bjorklund.
Missouri’s ability to use its bench is encouraging with Fisher’s playing status uncertain.
Junior center Megan Roney was an important player off the bench for the Tigers. She had six rebounds, one assist and one block in 16 minutes.
Roney began the season as a starter, but played less when Fisher became healthier. For Missouri to win in the Big 12, Roney will need to continue to improve.
“We wanted to keep a fresh person on her because it’s a very physical game down there on trying to keep moving and keep position and all those things,” Stein said. “There were times we needed a little bit better help on her.
“I thought defensively we did some really good things that we were trying to accomplish.”
TWO NUMBERS NOT TO FORGET: Joni Davis and Renee Kelly’s retired numbers were lowered from Hearnes Center’s rafters. The banners with Davis’ No. 33 and Kelly’s No. 42 will be raised in the new arena next season.