Tigers searching for leadership

Friday, February 11, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:31 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

After a spirited performance to beat Colorado 55-53 on Wednesday, a question remains for Missouri women’s basketball fans. Which team will show up for the rest of the season? The one that beat Colorado with heart or the one that passively accepted a 60-42 thrashing by Kansas at Mizzou Arena?

Against Colorado, the Tigers came out with fire in their eyes. Associate head coach Betsy Yonkman, who served as head coach in Cindy Stein’s absence Wednesday, said she thought the team came out and played hard for 40 minutes.

“They had great energy and great work ethic,” Yonkman said.

Contrast that comment to one Stein made after an embarrassing home loss against Kansas on Feb. 5. Instead of fire, the Tigers were wiping sleep out of their eyes.

“I can’t say they played hard,” Stein said.

The two games looked as though they were played by two different teams, as exemplified by the play of Missouri’s leading scorers, Tiffany Brooks and LaToya Bond.

After averaging 13 points on the season, Brooks scored four against Kansas on 1-of-7 shooting. Her hesitancy to look for her shot left the Tigers searching for a leader on offense.

Point guard LaToya Bond was not the answer. She did not take a shot until well into the first half and committed four turnovers while failing to earn an assist, steal or rebound.

Before playing Kansas, Stein said she thought Brooks and Bond were starting to accept leadership roles on the team. After the game she appeared to take it back, saying the team had not figured out how to be leaders.

Brooks and Bond took a step toward figuring it out in Colorado. The two led the team in scoring with 15 points each.

Bond was the undisputed hero of the game, hitting a tiebreaking 3-pointer as time expired to give Missouri (8-13, 2-8 Big 12 Conference) its first win since Jan. 5. Brooks finally re-embraced her role as an offensive weapon. She attacked the basket early and continued to look for shots throughout the game.

Brooks and Bond’s next chance to prove their leadership will be against Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena.

They will most likely have to play without Stein on the bench again. Stein was still in Peoria, Ill. with her seriously ill father Thursday, and Yonkman said the team did not anticipate Stein to return to Columbia for Saturday’s game.The Aggies (12-8, 3-7) are a young team trying to re-establish themselves in the Big 12 South. Coach Gary Blair, in his second year with the team, has faced some of the same problems as Stein, especially team leadership.

“I think it’s a learning process and a patient process,” Blair said.

He said he expects this season‘s growing pains will be worth it a couple years down the road or, “he’ll be on some highway out of (there).”

Before their game on Feb. 5 against Colorado, Texas A&M had lost five games in a row by double-digits, and the Aggies found themselves in the cellar of the Big 12 South. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Texas A&M has been on a roll lately with back-to-back wins over Colorado and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

For the Tigers to have a chance at back-to-back victories of their own, they will have to play with the intensity they showed at Colorado, not the lackadaisical play of the Kansas loss .

HEART OF THE TIGER: In honor of American Heart Month, Missouri will donate one dollar from every ticket sold for Saturday’s game to heart-related services and programs offered by UM Health Care systems.

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