Missouri needs its point players to produce if it wants to win.
Guards MyEsha Perkins and LaToya Bond are performing well for the Missouri women’s basketball team.
This is good news for the Tigers going into the NCAA Tournament. Missouri, the No. 11 seed, plays Stanford, the No. 6 seed, at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.
With Bond and Perkins in the lineup, the Tigers are 9-4, with all the losses coming against ranked opponents.
“Anybody who gets to the NCAA Tournament is obviously going to be excited,” Perkins said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for us with all the stuff we went through this year.”
Academic problems, suspensions and injuries at wrong times have plagued Bond and Perkins for most of the season, but things are looking up.
In Missouri’s past six games, the Tigers have gone 4-2 with Bonds and Perkins in the starting lineup, with both losses coming to Kansas State. The two have combined for 121 points and 48 assists in that span.
Perkins, a senior, is playing her best basketball since coming to Missouri from Trinity Valley Community College two years ago. She is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.3 points per game has a team-best .506 shooting percentage.
“It’s always good to be playing well,” Perkins said. “I guess it just happened to be at the end of the season when everybody started clicking and everything.”
Missouri (17-12) started the season without Perkins, who was academically ineligible until Dec. 19, and leaned on Bond, a sophomore, at the point.
The Tigers started the season well, jumping out to a 5-2 record before Bond broke her left foot at St. Louis University on Jan. 4.
With Bond out the Tigers struggled to find a rhythm. In Missouri’s first game after Bond’s injury, the Big 12 Conference opener, the Tigers committed 20 turnovers in a 95-59 loss at Kansas State on Jan. 7.
Bond’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Tigers lost their first four conference games.
“It just seemed like things weren’t clicking after my injury happened,” Bond said. “I just knew that with me out it wasn’t a big deal, I knew our team together would be able to overcome my injury and that we had great players to fill in and take over.”
Missouri hosted Kansas on Jan. 10, and tried to rebound from the Kansas State loss, but the Tigers’ hopes ended when senior guard Tracy Lozier’s shot to tie fell short in the closing seconds.
The 55-52 loss wasn’t a blow just to the Tigers’ record, though. A fight that broke out at midcourt after the game hurt Missouri in other ways.
On Jan. 14, the Big 12 Conference suspended Perkins for one game for her involvement in the fight. Missouri coach Cindy Stein added a second game to Perkins’ punishment.
Hollywood could have scripted Perkins’ return. She helped lead the Tigers to a 76-49 win at Kansas on Jan. 24. Perkins made 7-of-11 shots for 15 points, which was one shy of her career-high.
While Bond’s return couldn’t prevent a 83-59 loss to Baylor on Feb. 11, it did affect the rest of the season.
Bond’s quickness and athletic ability provided the spark that Missouri’s offense had been missing. Bond earned her starting spot back three games later in Missouri’s 93-90 double-overtime loss to Kansas State. She scored 11 points and had three assists in 43 minutes. Senior Evan Unrau’s 40-point performance overshadowed Bonds’ return.
The final piece missing from Missouri’s lineup is senior center Melanie Fisher, who strained her lower back early against Colorado on Jan. 31.
Fisher’s leadership and experience make her a vital part of Missouri’s inside game.
Stein said Fisher would be available for the first game of the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma State on Feb. 9.
Fisher hasn’t returned to action yet, but having her, Perkins and Bond available gives Missouri depth it has not had all season.