Much will be on the line for the Missouri women’s basketball team when it faces Texas A&M tonight in the final regular-season game for both teams.
Tip-off is at 7 at Reed Arena in College-Station, Texas, and a win against the Aggies could help the Tigers improve their seed in next week’s Big 12 Conference Tournament.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein also hopes to reach a milestone and snap a losing streak.
Stein will try for her 100th win at Missouri. After the Tigers beat Iowa State 63-58 on Saturday, Stein improved to 99-77 in six seasons at Missouri.
Of those wins, none has come in Texas. Stein hopes to reverse the losing trend quickly because the Tigers begin the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas on Tuesday.
“I would like just to win,” Stein said. “Specifically to be able to win in Texas especially since the Big 12 Tournament is down there, that would be kind of nice.”
Missouri is winless in its past 20 games in the Lone Star State and “Don’t mess with Texas” seems to be a motto the Tigers are taking seriously. Missouri’s most recent win in Texas came Jan. 2, 1990, when it beat Baylor 68-56 in Waco.
Since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996, Missouri has made at least two unsuccessful trips to Texas each season. Stein said the tough competition her teams face in Texas is the one of the few answers for her team’s poor performance in Texas.
“I think the Texas schools are pretty good, and I think that has a lot to do with it,” Stein said. “For whatever reason we just haven’t played well but I don’t think that is anything we should focus on.”
Despite being tied with Iowa State for eighth in the Big 12 standings, the Tigers have a chance to earn the seventh seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament through a complex tiebreaking system.
If Missouri and Iowa State win and seventh-place Nebraska loses to Colorado tonight, the teams will be in a three-way tie for seventh, and the Tigers would win the tiebreaker.
Texas A&M (9-17, 2-9) is tied with Kansas for last place in the Big 12, but the Aggies cannot be taken lightly. Like Missouri, Texas A&M lost several games against Top 10 opponents by fewer than five points. The Aggies also have five conference losses by three points or fewer.
Senior guard Toccara Williams leads the Aggies with 15.6 points per game, leads the Big 12 with 7.2 assists per game and leads the nation with 4.2 steals per game.
Gary Blair, who is in his first season as coach at Texas A&M, is instilling the same aggressive defensive scheme he successfully used at Arkansas from 1993-2003. Stein said her team will need to be prepared to face Blair’s patented pressure defense.
“Coach Blair is a great coach,” Stein said. “I think our kids understand they will have to stay very poised and they also have to be extremely aggressive themselves.”
SKIBBE SKIPS OUT: Oklahoma State’s Trisha Skibbe, the Big 12’s leading scorer, left the team for personal reasons Monday.
Skibbe, a 6-foot-2 senior, started all 26 games and averaged 19 points and 7.8 rebounds. Her announcement came two days before Oklahoma State’s last regular-season game.
LEGEND STEPS DOWN: Marian Washington, who coached at Kansas in four decades and was the most tenured coach in the Big 12, made her retirement official Friday.
Washington left the program Jan. 29 for medical reasons and never returned. She began coaching in 1973 and retires with a 559-356 record and the respect of her peers.
“Marian is one of the really good people in our profession,” Texas coach Jody Conradt said. “She is a woman with pride and a woman who shows class at everything she does.”