Missouri women’s basketball has treated its home fans to some thrilling games early on this season.
But those tight contests haven’t gone the Tigers’ way as much as they would have hoped.
The latest nailbiter, a 78-73 loss to Northern Iowa on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena, dropped MU to 1-2 for the first time since 2010, coach Robin Pingeton’s first year with the program. Overtime games against Western Illinois and Nebraska preceded Wednesday’s defeat, and while there is something to be said for hanging tough in close matchups, the Tigers know they need to take another step to get into a winning habit.
“It’s about really locking it in, understanding the game plan, preparing how you’re going to battle, and executing,” Pingeton said. “I just think we’re not where we need to be from an intensity standpoint right now.”
A common thread through the first three games has been difficulty with communication and transition defense. Rather than put teams away with momentum-changing runs, Missouri has repeatedly allowed opponents to punch back, keeping each game too close for comfort.
“We’ve got to figure out what we want to get down on the defensive end, because we’re certainly not where we need to be to put ourselves in a good position,” Pingeton said.
As has been the case for the Tigers throughout the young season, Missouri and Northern Iowa traded blows for four quarters, with neither team gaining a significant upper hand. When MU trailed 32-22 in the second quarter, a comeback led by two Jordan Roundtree 3-pointers pulled the Tigers right back in.
Despite her shooting successes on the night, Roundtree harkened back to the team’s defensive struggles when asked about her performance.
“We’re not talking, and when we are talking, we’re not listening,” she said. “There’s things that we talk about, and we understand, it’s just we have to make the adjustment in gameplay. I think we have to prepare a little bit better from here on out.”
Missouri shot just 62.5% from the line Wednesday, a stark contrast to Sunday’s loss to Nebraska, when a 31-point haul from the charity stripe kept the Tigers in the game. MU found itself down 77-73 in the final minute of play, and a missed 3-pointer from Amber Smith with 12 seconds left all but sealed the loss.
It was Missouri’s first-ever loss to Northern Iowa (3-0) in seven all-time meetings. With a three-game homestand to begin the campaign now in the books, the Tigers will travel to Green Bay on Saturday in hopes of climbing back to .500. Green Bay upset MU in Columbia last year and is an annual force in the Horizon League.
“Maybe a shakeup right now is not bad,” Pingeton said. “This court’s been really, really good to us, but right now, maybe going on the road and getting away, and really having to rely on each other in that locker room and on that court, maybe that will be a good stepping stone for us.”