Opponents gave Tigers tough tests

Wednesday, March 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

All season Big 12 Conference coaches praised the talent and competition their teams faced in the league.

When choosing the best players Missouri faced this year, it would be easy to pick Kansas State’s front four of Kendra Wecker, Laurie Koehn, Nicole Ohlde and Megan Mahoney. To do so, though, would overlook many other great players.

There is no doubt that Kansas State dominated Missouri this season. The Wildcats won all three meetings behind stellar performances from their front four, who combined for 214 of Kansas State’s 267 points in those games.

While Wecker and Mahoney did not make the list of the five best players Missouri faced, each made large contributions to the Wildcats’ victories this season.

Wecker’s quick moves and ability to score in transition helped her average 19 points and 7.3 rebounds. Mahoney’s 10 points per game seem few compared to her teammates, but her seven assists per game hurt Missouri because of her ability to feed the ball to Ohlde and Koehn.

Forward Nicole Powell, Stanford

It was a sign of things to come when Powell buried a 3-pointer on the Cardinal’s first possession in the Tigers’ 68-44 loss to Stanford on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Tempe, Ariz.

Powell proved tough to stop and lived up to her two-time All-American billing. She finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in 33 minutes and helped show the Tigers an early exit from the tournament.

Forward Nicole Ohlde, Kansas State

The end of Ohlde’s eligibility is welcome news at Missouri.

Ohlde, an All-American in 2003 and the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer, gave the Tigers’ defense fits during her four-year career at Kansas State.

Missouri tried to stop Ohlde in many different ways but nothing worked and Ohlde averaged 22.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in Kansas State’s three wins.

Ohlde’s presence in the Wildcats’ lineup was especially difficult for Missouri because of Kansas State’s other talented starters. If Missouri double-teamed Ohlde, then Wecker or Koehn had an easier time, and conversely, if Missouri focused on one of the other of the four, then Kansas State would push the ball inside to Ohlde.

Center Stacy Stephens, Texas

Stephens is a leader for Texas, which is the top-seed in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament this year. In her first three years, Stephens made a habit of picking apart Missouri’s defense, scoring 46 points and grabbing 28 rebounds.

Her senior season was no different, scoring 20 points and grabbing five rebounds in 26 minutes.

Guard Laurie Koehn, Kansas State

Koehn provided a lethal counterbalance to Ohlde’s inside presence for the Wildcats, and she wasn’t afraid to showcase her knack for long-range shooting. Koehn, who leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers made, was a continual threat against the Tigers.

In Kansas State’s 93-90 double overtime win against Missouri on Feb. 22 in Columbia, Koehn had all five of the Wildcats’ 3-point baskets. She also had five 3-pointers against Missouri in a 79-58 Big 12 Tournament win.

Her most devastating performance, though, came Jan. 7 in Manhattan, Kan. when she made seven 3-pointers and scored 25 points in a 95-59 win against the Tigers.

Guard Kari Koch, Southwest Missouri State

Koch, a 5-foot-8 sophomore guard, might not be large in stature but her presence was huge in the Bears’ 79-70 win against Missouri on Dec. 10 at Hearnes Center.

Koch scored 16 of her team-high 23 points in the second half as SMS snapped a two-game losing streak against the Tigers.

Koch and the Bears finished the season 29-4 and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships before losing to Notre Dame 69-65 in overtime Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Though many players could have appeared on this list, the impact these five made for their teams against Missouri is undeniable.

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