To call it a bad start would be an understatement.
“I think that any coach in America who got off to a jump like that might have been a little bit surprised,” Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said.
The Kansas women’s basketball team started Saturday’s game against Missouri with an 18-2 run, and it didn’t get any better for the Tigers as the game went on.
“I never worry about my team when they play hard, but I can’t say they played hard today,” coach Cindy Stein said.
The Tigers scored just 15 points in the first half and lost 60-42 at Mizzou Arena to a Kansas team that had beaten them by two points two weeks ago.
“This team has just been very timid,” Stein said. “They’re always waiting for someone else to do something good and then they’ll follow. But we haven’t had a lot of good leaders yet.”
The team’s leading scorer, Tiffany Brooks, has been a recent example of its hesitancy. After averaging 13 points during the first half of the season, Brooks finished 1-of-7 against Kansas. She took only two shots in the game before against Texas on Jan. 29.
“We have a couple of kids who just don’t look for their shot,” Stein said. “In sports, you can’t just stand there with your hands back, you’ve gotta go after it.”
The rest of the team followed Brooks’ example, shooting 5-of-24 in the first half. Its field-goal percentage at the end of the game was only slightly better at 35 percent.
“Offensively, we’ve struggled a lot all year,” Stein said. “The execution part has been killing us.”
It took eight minutes for Missouri to score a field goal. Forward Christelle N’Garsanet finally hit a 5-footer with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Rebounding also hurt the Tigers’ chances. Despite a size disadvantage, the Jayhawks outrebounded Missouri 39-31, led by freshman Taylor McIntosh’s 16.
“She just chases them all down,” Henrickson said. “It’s not like she’s 6-5 and standing under the basket reaching up. She’s making the effort.”
Henrickson said she was ecstatic with her team’s performance. She mentioned McIntosh as an example of a player whose effort and willingness to fulfill her role motivated the entire team.
“We brought energy, effort and intensity early,” Henrickson said. “I’m just excited for the kids.”
Stein’s comments were the opposite of Henrickson’s, marked by words like “disappointing.” She said repeatedly that she wanted to apologize to the fans.
While Henrickson praised her team’s effort, Stein said Missouri didn’t play with the spark and fire it needed.
“We were just a step behind,” Stein said. She joked that she thought a stick of dynamite might be needed to motivate her team.
While Henrickson credited her players with understanding and fulfilling their roles, Stein said her players needed to show more poise.
The Tigers took three timeouts in the first half in order to “regroup and relax.”
“It’s part of people figuring out how to be leaders on the floor so you don’t need a halftime to (regroup) and you don’t need a timeout,” Stein said. “That’s one of those growing phases that we have not really been able to get through.”
With the loss to Kansas, Missouri has lost eight in a row. The team’s most recent win was on Jan. 5, at home against Oklahoma State.
“This is the longest losing streak of my life and it’s ridiculous,” Stein said. “I think our players are frustrated and embarrassed about the way they’ve been playing.”