Tigers keep the faith as conference woes continue

Missouri remains the only team without a conference win in the Big 12.

Junior guard RaeShara Brown tries to squeeze past Oklahoma forward Joanna McFarland for an attempt at the basket Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena. The teams passed the lead back and forth until Missouri fell to Oklahoma with a final score of 62-61.

Going into Wednesday's matchup with Oklahoma, Missouri women's basketball looked like it might be the worst team in the Big 12. The Tigers were the only team without a conference win and were dead last in points per game.

It seemed the Tigers' luck was about to change in the first half of their fourth conference contest, as multiple turnovers slowed the Sooner offense and Missouri led at the break.

"This did not look like a Missouri team that is 0-3 in league play," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "They played with a great deal of confidence."

Oklahoma tied it up two minutes into the second half, starting a back-and-forth battle that would go on until the final buzzer.

After leading all scorers in the first half, senior forward Jessra Johnson continued to dominate in the second. She finished with 18 points, including a clutch hook shot that put the Tigers up one with less than a minute to play.

Oklahoma quickly regained the lead with a put-back under the basket, giving the Tigers 9.6 seconds to make something happen. Johnson's last-second 3-pointer came up short, sealing the 62-61 victory for the Sooners.

The defeat extended Missouri's cold streak to five-straight losses. The drought began when Xavier snapped the Tigers' seven-game winning streak Jan. 5.

After losing by double digits to Colorado, Kansas State and Kansas, the smaller margin of defeat to Oklahoma seemed the lone positive spot for the Tigers, but coach Cindy Stein saw multiple bright spots in the loss.

"I thought we controlled the tempo as well as you can against Oklahoma," Stein said. "I was really pleased with the way we took care of the ball." She also said Missouri's defense looked sharp and active.

The 0-4 Big 12 record is the worst conference start for Missouri under Stein since the 2003-04 season. The losing streak, coupled with a competitive conference, has forced her to adopt an optimistic outlook.

"We have to keep believing," Stein said. "We're playing better. This is a hard conference to build your confidence in, but we have to."

Stein went on to mention the many ranked teams in the Big 12 conference and said her Tigers are up to the challenge.

"This is a tough conference because there are so many ranked teams," Stein said. "But we can get in that mix. We're just a step away, and we're going to fight hard to get that step."

The players are also aware of their potential and refuse to harp too much on one loss.

"We know what we're capable of," Johnson said. "A loss is a loss, but we also know that we can win. We're just going to keep working hard in practice and give it all we got on the court."

The Tigers hope to grab their first conference victory when they host Baylor at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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