Two words describe the last time the Kansas and Missouri women‘s basketball teams met: ugly and embarrassing.
The Tigers will play the Jayhawks for the third time this season today in the opening round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament,.
The No. 9 seed Tigers take on the No. 8 seed Jayhawks at noon in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
Flashback to Feb. 5, Missouri had the opportunity to change its downward momentum.
The Tigers were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak and needed a win to boost their confidence and build leadership. A bitter feeling lingered from a one-point loss to Kansas on its floor.
Instead, Missouri turned over the ball, 19 times and the Jayhawks beat the Tigers 60-42 on its court.
Missouri coach Cindy Stein apologized after the game to the fans about her team’s lackluster performance.
It was the lowest point in a disappointing season. Missouri had one Big 12 win, and that had come a month earlier against Oklahoma State.
Each part of the Tigers game that was improving, ball handling, shooting and defining leadership roles, evaporated in a game-opening 18-2 Jayhawk run. Missouri needed to make some decisions.
It could use this game as a positive turning point or wallow in its dysfunction and trudge through the rest of the season.
The Tigers chose to strive for the positive and won their next two games.
A 58-55 victory against Colorado was their first conference road win, and the first in Boulder since 1990.
Missouri stepped up against ranked opponents.
On Feb. 16, Missouri trailed 34-27 at halftime against No. 7 Baylor, the eventual Big 12 Champions. No. 21 Iowa State needed Anne O’Neil’s two last-minute 3-pointers for a 76-70 win.
The Tigers’ most recent opponent was No. 17 Kansas State.
The Tigers held a 25-23 lead at halftime, only to lose 80-53.
With all of its progress, Missouri is struggling to play a consistent 40 minutes of basketball.
Missouri’s offense relies on Tiffany Brooks, center Christelle N’Garsanet and point guard LaToya Bond to function properly. All three average double digits.
N’Garsanet’s assignment is to thwart Kansas’s inside game, which centers on Crystal Kemp.
Kemp scored 22 points and had 14 rebounds against the Tigers in their first meeting. She averages 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Brooks and Bond face a backcourt of Erica Hallman and Aquanita Burras. The Jayhawks guards average a combined 23.1 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Stein has said Brooks and Bond must be a steady source of leadership every game for Missouri. The two strained under the burden until recently.
Brooks contributes scoring and leads Missouri with 13 points per game.
Bond looks more comfortable at point guard. She averages 12 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
A wild card for Missouri is the play of Carlynn Savant.
The 6-foot-1 forward started in 17 games, and is valuable off Missouri’s bench.
In conference play, Missouri’s bench averages 7.3 points without Savant.
Playing Kansas provides the Tigers a chance to rectify their season and to take advantage of Kansas’ recent three-game losing skid. All three losses were against ranked opponents.