The next challenge: Nebraska.
The Missouri women’s basketball team takes on Nebraska on Saturday.
After Wednesday night’s 67-49 victory over Oklahoma State, Missouri coach Cindy Stein said she had not watched Nebraska play yet.
“I don’t know anything (about Nebraska),” Stein said. “I really concentrate on one game at a time.”
By Saturday, Stein will be well prepared and so will her Tigers. After winning its first conference opener in 11 tries, Missouri wants the winning to continue.
Even so, Nebraska coach Connie Yori is not surprised no one knows her team or Missouri for that matter.
“I think there are three teams in our league right now that there is a real unfamiliarity from other opponents,” Yori said. “I think Missouri, Colorado, and ourselves are those three teams.”
Nebraska figured out Colorado, winning 84-62 on Wednesday.
The Huskers were at home in Devaney Center, where they are 8-0. On the road, Nebraska is 0-3.
This is a weakness the Tigers can take advantage of, especially if they continue playing aggressive defense.
Against Oklahoma State, Missouri held the Cowgirls to 10 first half points.
Tigers’ LaToya Bond and Christelle N’Garsanet were a big reason why. Bond plays forceful, man-to-man defense. She came up with four steals against the Cowgirls, bringing her season total to 35. N’Garsanet uses her 6-foot-3 frame to keep opponents’ shots from reaching the rim.
She blocked five shots in Wednesday night’s game, and has 25 for the season. The team has a total of 73 blocks.
The Huskers will look to Jina Johansen to lead and keep their team steady.
“She’s (Johansen) really the only one in our program who had any real, true significant playing time,” Yori said.
Johansen averaged 31.5 minutes last season, and is now playing 34.8.
“Jina Johansen clearly is the glue to our team,” Yori said. “You look at her assist-to-turnover ratio, just her leadership on the court, her willingness to communicate, willingness to get us organized.”
Johansen, a 5-foot-7 senior guard, has 73 assists compared to only 23 turnovers. She is averaging 6.2 points, but chipped in 10 against Colorado Wednesday.
Johansen’s teammate Kiera Hardy is an offensive weapon and an inspiration.
Since her senior year at O’Hara High School in Kansas City, Hardy has dropped close to 30 pounds.
This dramatic body alteration has made the 5-foot-6 guard mentally and physically tougher for the Huskers.
“If you think about losing 30 pounds on a 5’6 frame, you’re talking about a significant change in body type,” Yori said. “She has really worked hard to make herself the player she is in the weight room, on the track, and in the gym.”
Hardy is averaging a team-high 17.6 points a game, and led the team with 22 points in its defeat of Colorado.
Missouri will most likely match-up Bond or Tiffany Brooks against Hardy.
Brooks is also a major contributor for the Tigers. In her first four games, she is averaging 11.8 points and she has nine steals.
“We have the option of going inside and out with our team, that’s a nice plus,” Yori said.
The Huskers had been looking inside to Jessica Gerhart and Chelsea Aubry.
Gehart, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, is averaging 12.9 points and 6.7 boards.
Now, with an injury to Aubry, the ball has been in the hands of Bojana Samardziska. Samardz-iska, a 6-foot-4 junior center, was only averaging 9.2 minutes before playing 20 against Colorado.