The Missouri women’s basketball team wants No. 3. The Tigers will try to win their third consecutive game in the opener of the State Farm Tiger Classic, which begins tonight. Missouri-Kansas City takes on Eastern Michigan at 5 p.m. before Missouri faces Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.
Missouri (3-2) won its most recent contest at home against Evansville 82-66. Coach Cindy Stein and her team hope to continue that success with the unexpected help of sophomore Carlynn Savant, a 6-foot-1 forward who scored a career-high 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds against the Purple Aces.
Tiger point guard LaToya Bond is leading Missouri in scoring and assists with 13.2 and 5.0, respectively. Bond said she was happy with the Tigers’ energy in the first half of the game against Evansville, but they must continue it through the game.
“That’s one thing that we have trouble with, ever since I’ve been here, is we get a big lead and then we kind of back off,” Bond said.
Missouri suffered a 10-minute meltdown in the second half with Evansville, allowing its 20-point lead to dwindle to three. Mississippi Valley State (2-0) finished 8-21 last season. Coach Nate Kilbert’s Devilettes’ last victory, 61-58, came on Nov. 27 against Tuskegee.
Sophomore Ashley Robinson led the team with 15 points. Last season, the 5-foot- 10 Robinson averaged 7.3 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Based on its numbers, Eastern Michigan (4-0) could provide the toughest competition for the Tigers. In the last three weeks, the Eagles have received their first votes in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 national poll. Eastern Michigan is entering its third straight tournament. It won the Eagle Classic on Nov. 20 and the Best Western Roundball Classic on Nov. 28.
Eagles coach Suzy Merchant said playing in tournaments can be especially challenging for teams.
“It adds a little bit more work,” Merchant said. “You have to be mentally ready to go in back-to-back nights and that can be difficult.”
The stress does not seem to faze the Eagles’ 5-foot-8 senior guard Ryan Coleman, who was named MVP in the team’s two previous tournaments. She is averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds and was named the MAC West Division Player of the Week for Nov. 29.
“Ryan’s a pretty special player,” Merchant said. “She can dominate the game without dominating the ball.”
The Eagles’ opponent tonight, UMKC (1-3), also has a stand-out player so far this season.
Senior guard Katie Houlehan is averaging 19.5 points per game in coach Bo Overton’s first season as a college coach.
In UMKC’s last game on Nov. 29, it defeated Northern Colorado 61-49. The 5-foot-9 Houlehan scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds. Teammate Liz Obrecht, a 6-foot-1 junior center, added 12 points and eight rebounds.
The consolation and championship games will be played at 5 and 7 p.m. on Saturday.