When Missouri learned Jan. 5 that LaToya Bond had a broken left foot and would miss 4-6 weeks, it lost more than its starting point guard.
Bond’s injury marked the loss of the Tigers’ floor leader and most athletic player at a bad time.
Coming off a 9-2 start against nonconference opponents, Missouri was hoping to carry its early-season momentum into its first Big 12 Conference game at Kansas State on Jan. 7.
Without Bond, though, Missouri’s offense collapsed in a 95-59 loss to the Wildcats as freshman Blair Hardiek struggled to fill the void at point guard.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein decided to shuffle her lineup by moving shooting guard Tracy Lozier to point guard, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from losing their first four conference games.
Bond, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, said the losing streak was difficult to watch from the sidelines.
“It was extremely frustrating because at some points it seemed they were out there playing with no energy and no emotion,” Bond said. “It was just frustrating sitting on the bench having to watch that knowing that sometimes that does occur.”
Missouri (13-9, 4-7 Big 12) managed to win three of nine games without Bond, but her injury will undoubtedly be a defining moment in the Tigers’ season.
The Tigers play No. 9 Texas Tech (21-4, 7-4) at 7 tonight at Hearnes Center. It will be Bond’s third game back since returning to the lineup in a loss to Baylor on Feb. 11.
“We are just trying to get her feet wet because her timing is a little bit off right now,” Stein said. “Everyday (the team) sees LaToya (Bond) get better, and I think LaToya coming back gives us more confidence.”
Bond scored nine against Baylor and followed that with eight points, four assists and two rebounds at Oklahoma State.
Although those stats are below her season averages of 11.6 points, 5.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds, Bond said her rehabilitation was a success, and she feels that she is returning to her early season form.
“I think I’m ready but it still depends on the doctor,” Bond said. “He wants me to kind of work up each game but I’m ready for whatever comes.”
The play of senior guard MyEsha Perkins also has boosted Missouri in its past seven games.
Since returning from a two-game suspension against Kansas on Jan. 24, Perkins is averaging 13.1 points and providing a substantial lift to Missouri’s offense.
With Bond’s return, Perkins’ emergence as a scoring threat and Hardiek’s progression at guard, Lozier said Missouri now faces an enviable dilemma, too much backcourt depth.
“Now that we are using a four-guard rotation so it takes a lot of pressure off me not having to play point guard,” Lozier said. “Especially with MyEsha (Perkins) stepping up and playing so well lately, it is nice to know that you have someone coming in the game for you and there will be no letdowns.”
When the Tigers face the Red Raiders, it will be a matchup between a Missouri team struggling at home and a Texas Tech team struggling on the road.
The Red Raiders are in fourth place in the Big 12 and are 2-3 in conference road games, including losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma State. On the road, Missouri beat the Cyclones by 19 points and the Cowgirls by 25.
Missouri lost four of its past five home games and needs a win tonight to avoid falling to 6-6 at Hearnes Center this season.