DALLAS – This is déjà vu with a twist.
Missouri finished the regular season in a three-way tie for seventh in the Big 12 Conference with Nebraska and Iowa State. Because of the tiebreaker system, Missouri (16-11, 7-9 Big 12) is the No. 7 seed.
The Tigers take on No. 11 seed Oklahoma State at 6 tonight at Reunion Arena.
Last year, the No. 11 seed Cowgirls upset No. 6 seed Missouri 56-54 in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, ending the Tigers hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein doesn’t plan to let history repeat itself.
“I think that we look at this as one of those (games) where we don’t want to have someone take away anything from us that we really want,” Stein said. “That happened last year. We want to go in there very determined and very focused, because I think Oklahoma State is a very dangerous team right now.”
Oklahoma State (8-19, 3-13) is different from the team the Tigers faced last year; it’s even different from the team Missouri faced in February.
The Cowgirls’ leading scorer, Trisha Skibbe, left the team March 1 for personal reasons. Skibbe averaged 19 points and 7.8 rebounds and had 15 points in Missouri’s 71-46 win at Oklahoma State on Feb. 14.
The absence of the Cowgirls’ leading scorer isn’t necessarily a good thing for Missouri, Stein said.
“I think it makes them scarier because you don’t know exactly what they are going to do now,” Stein said. “Before you knew they were going to Skibbe, or at least you knew what their game plan was going to be.”
Senior guard Tracy Lozier said although last year’s loss was disappointing, the team isn’t dwelling on it.
“It does give us some motivation for this game, but I think we just need to focus on ourselves,” Lozier said.
Having more depth is one thing Missouri can focus on. The Tigers might be able to use senior center Melanie Fisher if the situation calls for it, Stein said.
Fisher has not played since straining her lower back against Colorado on Jan. 31. Fisher’s status is day to day and she could be used in limited situations, though Stein said she isn’t sure for how long.
“(Having Fisher back) just gives us experience,” Stein said. “I don’t know how long we can have it, but I think anytime you can have experience defensively in key situations, I think that helps.”
Success in the Big 12 Tournament is crucial if the Tigers hope to advance to the NCAA Tournament. After its 93-90 loss in double-overtime to Kansas State on Feb. 22,
Missouri players have said they needed to win their final three games of the regular season and make a strong run in the conference tournament if they wanted a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t see why we are not considered now (for the NCAA Tournament),” Stein said. “I think it was a heck of an effort that should be rewarded, but I am not on the committee.”