COLUMBIA — Shakara Jones did about anything she wanted in the Missouri women’s basketball team’s 73-64 win over Murray State on Friday.
The 6-foot-2 freshman forward, who was often guarded by shorter players, dominated near the basket and had 27 points and 14 rebounds in her debut for the Tigers. The one thing it took a while to accomplish was making a three-pointer. Throughout the game, Jones caught the ball behind the three-point line unguarded and hesitated, her right arm twitching and ready to shoot. Finally, with 12:19 to play, she took the shot and sank it to give the Tigers an 11-point lead.
“I finally got my rhythm on it,” Jones said, smiling. “I’m still in shock that I shot it, but you can’t be a post player all the time.”
Missouri coach Cindy Stein said she isn’t expecting Jones to play only close to the basket this season. She said she expects Jones to be a versatile shooter for the Tigers’ offense and play inside and outside.
“I was glad to see her pull that three, because she’s a very good three-point shooter, which a lot of people don’t know,” Stein said.
Murray State coach Jody Adams said she knew she had a tough matchup on her hands with just one player on her roster, 6-5 center Angela Brown, as tall as Jones. She told her team to try and force Jones to go to her off hand, but the strategy couldn’t stop Jones from scoring.
“We were wanting to make her go left and finish left,” Adams said. “She finished whichever way she wanted to tonight.”
The Racers tried everything to slow Jones down. They tried playing behind her for most of the game, then later, tried fronting her to no avail. Jones made 11 of 14 shots.
“My team was setting the picks down low, so I have to owe it to them,” Jones said. “But really I did nothing different, just moving, all motion.”
While Jones’ offensive performance was impressive, Stein was especially pleased with Jones’ effort on the defensive end of the floor. She was active throughout the game and her 14 rebounds led all players.
“The thing I like about Shak is she’ll play defense and cause some things to happen,” Stein said. “She’s always hitting the boards. Very rarely is she not around the ball somewhere.”
It was a debut Jones said was “great” and one Stein said gave Jones confidence she will be able to build on as her first season progresses.
“When kids play with confidence they blossom so much more,” Stein said. “Obviously that’s going to be huge for her down the stretch.”
HANNEMAN SITS OUT: Sophomore forward Amanda Hanneman was held out of Friday’s game as she continues to recover from a stress fracture in her right foot, though she could have played if needed.
“We’re just saving her,” Stein said. “She’s still coming back from an injury and we’re trying not to overdo it with her.”
Hanneman was the only player besides Bekah Mills, who has a torn ACL, that didn’t play for Missouri.
TOUGH NIGHT FOR HOLLINS: Alissa Hollins is expected to be one of the top scorers for the Tigers this season, but she was off her game on Friday shooting just 2-for-13 from the field.
“I’m not really worried about the fact that she wasn’t hitting,” Stein said. “She’ll get it, she’s a good shooter.”
FREE-THROW WOES: One eyesore on the stat sheet for the Tigers was their 43.8 free-throw percentage. The Tigers attempted 16 free-throws, nine more than the Racers, but made just seven, one more than Murray State. Tigers sophomore forward Jessra Johnson and sophomore guard Toy Richbow had the most trouble, combining to go 3-for-10.