Before the Missouri women’s basketball team played Colorado on Jan. 3 at Boulder, Colo., it was receiving votes in both the Associated Press and the coaches’ polls.
After losing five Big 12 Conference games, including the one against the Buffaloes, Missouri lost those votes.
The Tigers (13-6, 1-5 Big 12) have the chance for a rematch against Colorado at noon today at Mizzou Arena, after losing in their first meeting, 71-59.
This week was a Big 12 bye week for the Tigers, meaning no usual Wednesday night game. Stein said the week off was badly needed.
“It seemed like we needed it a week before,” Stein said. “Every time we traveled, we had something go wrong — extended stay, bad weather — it kind of wears you out when you’re traveling.”
Not to mention the week off served to put the recent losses out of the minds of players.
“I think there were just points,” Stein explained, “certain people weren’t playing well and everybody else kind of panicked, cause that was kind of our steadies, and we just kind of have to rally around one another.”
Stein said more players will have to step up as scoring and defensive threats, instead of relying on two or three to make plays. Coming off the bench, Tamika Jackson, Kassie Drew and Jessra Johnson, who are all averaging less than four points per game, will have to make a greater impact on games, Stein said.
But it’s not just about Mizzou’s players. It’s about the tough conference teams they face. With 10 Big 12 teams, including Missouri, receiving votes in the polls at one time or another this season, in addition to some being ranked, Stein said the team expects the competition to be tough.
“From top to bottom, this is one of the best conferences in the country, so that is what you are running up against,” Stein said. “It’s a matter of every single mistake you make, it’s a glaring mistake because other teams are too good. They’re going to capitalize.
“We haven’t capitalized as much as we needed to on their mistakes and we’ve got to do a better job on that.”
A tall Colorado team dominated with rebounds at the last meeting with the Tigers. Stein said Missouri would focus on taking away the Buffaloes’ rebounding edge and try to not make their size matter.
“We’ve got to step up our defensive efforts and understand that we’re going to be smaller, so we have to work harder,” Stein said.
Colorado (8-10, 2-4 Big 12) is also looking to end a four-game losing streak.
PACK THE ZOU: Since the conference game will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports Net, organizers have declared the date “Pack the Zou,” in order to have a large crowd against visiting Colorado. Tickets for the game are only $1.
The crowd for last year’s Pack the Zou event, 4,589, against Texas Tech on Jan. 28, 2006, was the third largest for a women’s basketball game at Mizzou Arena. The top crowd was Dec. 18, 2004 against Stanford, bringing in 7,585 fans.
HEADED HOME: Crystal Howard, a junior guard for the Tigers, elected to leave MU over winter break and is no longer a part of the team.
Citing ongoing family and personal concerns, as well as health issues, Howard went home to Omaha, Neb.
“It was a scenario where she has had some personal things going on and we knew they were there when we recruited her,” Stein said, “but taking a chance on such a talented
young lady, I thought was worth it. Unfortunately, she has some of those continuing and she’s decided not to go to school.”
Howard was recruited to Missouri as a freshman, but left after nine games to transfer to Iowa Western Community College. As a sophomore, she averaged 20.8 points, 4.2 assists and 4 steals per game before transferring back to Missouri as a junior.