Delores Hughley hobbled gingerly to the Arkansas-Pine Bluff bench after an injury in the first minute and a half of the team’s women’s basketball game Friday night against Missouri.
But it wasn’t just the loss of the Golden Lions’ leading scorer that hurt the winless team. It was that Hughley’s early departure left only one sub on the bench.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-11) brought only seven healthy players to Mizzou Arena, but it was enough to hold the Tigers scoreless for nearly five minutes of play, and the Golden Lions led by as many as nine points before the Tigers got rolling in their 94-52 win.
“We’ve had several injuries and everything,” Golden Lions coach Danny Evans said. “It’s kind of tough to have to play without all your players. Obviously, first half, we looked more like we usually look, but the second half, we just ran out of steam.”
The Tigers (12-1) opened their last nonconference game in sluggish form. They shot 31.4 percent and were outrebounded by a team, which, because of injuries, was without its true center. Missouri didn’t claim the lead for good until 17 minutes into the first half.
In the postgame press conference, Missouri coach Cindy Stein jokingly thanked the media for staying after watching what she said was a lackluster first half, filled with quick shots and lazy defense.
“We wanted to run them out of the gym,” Stein said. “No one should ever be able to bring seven players in here and beat us. If we are running the floor and playing the defense we wanted to play, no one should ever be able to do that, and that was our point, pretty much, in half time.”
After what Stein described as a halftime with no “discussion,” the Tigers came back to shoot 74.2 percent.
Senior guard Tiffany Brooks helped rekindle the Tigers’ energy. Brooks went 8-of-9, scoring 15 points in the second half. She said Stein’s halftime talk focused on defense.
“Basically that our defense was going to start everything. You know, if we get out there in the passing lane, then it will come,” Brooks said. “It did. Shots started falling and we started making better reads.”
Stein and the Tigers did not blame the poor first-half play on their 10-day stint without a game. In fact, the Tigers have had intense three-hour practices since coming back from their five-day Christmas break.
“We’ve been running,” Brooks said. “A lot.”
All 14 Tigers played, improving the confidence of the bench. Freshman Marissa Scott scored her first collegiate basket and freshman Amanda Hanneman had eight points in five minutes of play. Freshman Jessra Johnson had 10 rebounds.
EeTisha Riddle led Missouri with 20 points, her fifth 20-point game of the season.
In 11 straight losses, the Golden Lions’ smallest margin of defeat has been 20 points. Stein said despite Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s record, the team’s nonconference schedule was the sixth toughest in the nation and included only one home game. The Golden Lions can take those experiences and use them during their conference schedule, and return a full roster hopefully by the third or fourth conference game, Evans said.
“We’ve been playing a brutal schedule, so we need to quit that and go play people more our caliber,” he said.
The Tigerss’ schedule, which is the fourth toughest in the Big 12 Conference according to Stein, is strategic, as well.
“We want to make sure we go on the road and have some tough games, which I feel like we’ve done,” she said. “We also want some games where we can come back after five days off...you don’t want to be playing Stanford at this time.”