There were 10 minutes left. The scoreboard at Mizzou Arena showed Kansas State’s Twiggy McIntyre, who had just driven through the lane untouched for an easy basket. Then, the screen flashed to Missouri coach Cindy Stein, who wore an expression of confusion, frustration and disgust.
It’s been an all-too familiar face this season for Stein, whose Tigers were in the process of losing another Big 12 Conference game at home.
The Tigers lost their final regular season game 80-53 after leading 25-23 at the half.
Maybe 40 strong minutes were too much to ask. Maybe the Tigers thought 20 would be enough.
Missouri (10-17, 4-12) played tough, physical defense in the first half to hold No. 17 Kansas State to 30 percent shooting. It looked as if the Tigers had a shot to pull off an upset.
Wildcats star Kendra Wecker, a National Player of the Year candidate, was quiet most of the half. She had as many fouls, two, as baskets, and sat on the bench to finish the half.
EeTisha Riddle led the Tigers on both ends of the floor during the first half. She scored eight and helped hold the Wildcats’ inside players, including Wecker, to five points.
The Tigers also forced nine turnovers while committing four. Although they were playing a ranked opponent, Missouri appeared to be the more polished, poised team on the court throughout the first half.
It was fun while it lasted.
Kansas State (21-6, 12-4) opened the second half with a 29-6 run, taking a 21-point lead. Wildcats players said the reason for Missouri’s first-half lead was related more to their own lack of intensity than to the Tigers’ defensive efforts.
“We didn’t bring (intensity and focus) early in the game,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “I didn’t have this team ready to compete when we took the floor.”
She said it took the better part of the first half for her team to get fired up.
While Kansas State was getting fired up, Missouri was cooling down. After holding the Wildcats to 23 in the first half, the Tigers gave up 57 second-half points.
Stein said Missouri didn’t come out aggressive in the second half and wasn’t able to respond to Kansas State’s adjustments.
“We came out flat-footed,” Stein said.
One Wildcat making an adjustment at halftime was Wecker. She scored 21 in the half on 8-of-14 shooting and finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior guard Laurie Koehn also played with intensity. After a traveling call negated a would-be 3-pointer, Koehn yelled at the referee and received a technical foul.
She said it was the first technical she had ever received and apologized for her behavior.
No apologies were needed on the Wildcats’ next possession, when Koehn hit a 3-pointer and held her follow-through up for several seconds, emphasizing the basket.
She went on to hit two more 3-pointers in the half, finishing 5-for-10 from behind the arc.
Missouri forward Tiffany Brooks said Koehn’s play made a big difference.
“I think we let Laurie Koehn get loose,” she said. “That motivated them and got them going.”
Whatever the motivation, Kansas State had it in the second half and Missouri did not. Failure to play a full game has been a common problem for the Tigers, who have struggled to string together 40 quality minutes.
Stein said the team has had good moments throughout the season, but seems to go through a spell each game where “nothing goes right.”
The Tigers will try to avoid that spell in the Big 12 Tournament. As the No. 9 seed, the Tigers will play rival Kansas at noon Tuesday at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.