Bears hit stride without Koch

Wednesday, December 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:56 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Taking a cue from Southwest Missouri State, the Missouri women’s basketball team must continue to come together.

Playing without its leading scorer, Kari Koch, has not been easy for the Bears. Still, SMS coach Kate Abrahamson-Henderson’s team is looking for its fourth straight win. “Playing together,” she said, is the key to a team’s success. “Absolutely, that is the number one thing, playing together.”

Missouri (4-3) will face SMS (3-2) at 7 p.m. at the Hammons Student Arena.

Missouri would like to rectify the 79-70 defeat that SMS handed the Tigers last December.

coach Cindy Stein said that though many of her players remember the loss, it will not overwhelm them.

Abrahamson-Henderson agreed, and said that emphasis on a rivalry between the schools is promoted more by the media and universities.

“I think, to us, it’s just the next game on your schedule,” Abrahamson-Henderson said.

Koch had a big part in the victory against the Tigers. She had 23 points and five steals. Last season, Koch averaged 17.8 points and 4.4 assists. Koch had 39 points in two exhibition games, but has not played in the regular season because of an undisclosed injury. Meanwhile, the backcourt players Sarah Klaassen and Jenni Lingor have emerged for the Bears.

Klaassen, a 5-foot-10 junior, is coming off a career-high 25 points, on 9-of-11 shooting against Eastern Kentucky on Sunday.

“Jenni’s always been there (for the team),” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Sarah is the one who is really stepping up, and it’s exciting to see her in that role.”

Lingor, a 5-foot-10 senior, is averaging 21.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. She was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week for the week of Nov.29-Dec.5.

Missouri will try to counteract the Bears with its own combination of LaToya Bond and Christelle N’Garsanet.

The 5-foot-7 Bond is the floor general for the Tigers. She enjoys pushing the ball up the court, scoring when needed, but still remains aware of her teammates.

Bond is averaging 13.6 points and 5.3 assists.

Bond’s defensive prowess is also helping to solidify her role for the Tigers. She is leading the team with 18 steals.

N’Garsanet, a 6-foot-3 junior, is enforcing her role as Missouri’s inside threat.

Against Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 3, N’Garsanet logged her first career double-double with 29 points and 13 rebounds. She leads Missouri in scoring with a 13.9-point average.

Stein, who has a plethora of size and talent on the roster, can produce different but effective lineups each night.

In the first seven games, Stein has used five different lineups for the Tigers.

But switching the lineups can create a flux in team chemistry.

This can cause poor execution, which has been evident this season when Missouri has a lead.

On Nov. 30, the Tigers led by 18 points against Evansville in the second half, but let Evansville close the gap to three with only five minutes to go.

Against Eastern Michigan on Saturday, the team pulled ahead, only to lose a six-point advantage with four minutes to go.

Stein said she is not worried. She said the team’s chemistry is progressing, and that it will continue to do so throughout the season.

After playing SMS, Missouri will take a 10-day break that ends with a gme against Stanford at 4 p.m. Dec. 18 at Mizzou Arena.

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