MU falls short

Tigers coach Cindy Stein praises her team’s tough play.
Monday, February 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Although excruciating home losses are nothing new for the Missouri women’s basketball team, Sunday’s loss to Kansas State was the most heartbreaking of them all.

Despite one of the greatest individual performances in Missouri basketball history from Evan Unrau and an outstanding team effort against the No. 8 team in the country, Missouri came up short, losing to the Wildcats 93-90 in two overtimes before 3,442 at Hearnes Center.

“I have never been more proud of a team after a loss than I am today,” Missouri coach Cindy Stein said. “I felt like our team gave their heart and soul tonight and as a coach you can’t ask for anything more.”

Missouri seemed poised to end its recent string of close but incredibly disappointing home losses against ranked Big 12 Conference opponents when it opened a 56-41 lead with 11:49 left. Kansas State held Missouri scoreless for the next 7:29, though, and the Wildcats scored 17 straight points to take a 58-56 lead.

Despite squandering a 15-point lead, the Tigers kept their poise and battled to the finish. Unfortunately for Missouri (13-11, 4-9 Big 12), clutch shots from MyEsha Perkins and LaToya Bond down the stretch and Unrau’s 40 points and 15 rebounds were not enough to earn a victory.

“It is so hard when you play that hard and you are that close,” Stein said. “There were so many good things going for us that you would have thought we’d be able to pull one out of here.”

The loss was Missouri’s fourth straight at home and ends a brutal stretch of five straight home games against ranked opponents.

After beating No. 20 Oklahoma on Jan. 28, Missouri lost to No. 11 Colorado by two on Jan. 31, lost by 24 against No. 18 Baylor on Feb. 11 and lost by five against No. 9 Texas Tech on Tuesday.

Considering Missouri’s tough schedule, it is not surprising Kansas State coach Deb Patterson made the Tigers sound like the best 13-11 team in the country.

“This is a very good basketball team,” Patterson said. “This Missouri basketball team will beat a large percentage of the teams in every great league in America.”

Unfortunately for Missouri, praise from opposing coaches, overcoming injuries and adversity and close losses against good teams are not requisites for making the NCAA Tournament.

Missouri lost Bond, its starting point guard, to a broken left foot two days before playing Kansas State on Jan. 7 in the Big 12 opener for both teams.

With Bond out of the lineup, the Wildcats cruised to a 95-59 win and Missouri proceeded to lose its first four Big 12 games. The Tigers managed to regroup but the loss of starting center Melanie Fisher to a lower back injury against Colorado overshadowed Bond’s return 12 days later against Baylor.

Patterson said that Missouri continues to challenge the top teams in the conference despite the injuries and gut-wrenching losses is commendable.

“It’s so tough because this league is so merciless,” Patterson said. “I think they’ve done a great job in spite of some very heart-wrenching losses to be as incredibly competitive and tough as they are.”

HANGING ON: Kansas State (21-3, 12-1) won its second straight in which it trailed by 10 points or more at halftime.

At Texas A&M on Wednesday, the Wildcats trailed the Aggies by 10 but managed to comeback and win 59-56. Missouri led by 11 at halftime Sunday, but the Wildcats mounted another comeback and extended their overall winning streak to eight.

The win also moves Kansas State into sole possession of first in the Big 12 thanks to Texas’ 62-49 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday.

NUMBERS GAME: Unrau’s 40 points came one point short of tying Renee Kelly’s single-game school record of 41 points set on Jan. 25, 1986.

On the other end of the spectrum, senior Tracy Lozier was held scoreless for the first time this season and played 30 minutes.

Lozier was not in Missouri’s starting lineup for the first time since Mar. 13, 2002, a stretch of 54 straight games.

Lozier became Missouri’s career 3-point leader earlier this season, but she has not made a 3-point shot since Missouri won at Iowa State on Feb. 7.

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