Young Tigers show glimpses with season tipping off

The Tigers will face Saint Louis Friday night.

Sophomore Kyley Simmons sets up a play during a game last season at Mizzou Arena. Simmons is one of only a few players returning for the Tigers, who tip off their season against Saint Louis tonight. File Photo

It would seem freshman guard Maddie Stock, who led the Missouri women’s basketball team with 19 points in its 42-point exhibition finale win over Lindenwood Tuesday, is finding the transition to the collegiate level easy.

But there’s one thing that she’s still adjusting to.

“I need to get used to the long warm-ups,” Stock said. “We’d come out here three different times, and the first time you come out, you kind of like observe, you see what’s going on, then each time you come out, you get more focused and more ready to play, and just focus on what you need to concentrate on during the game.”

In a way, that warm-up routine runs a similar pattern to Missouri’s season, which opens tonight at Mizzou Arena against Saint Louis University.

After getting a chance to “observe” in exhibition play, the Tigers find themselves in the middle stage. With six freshmen, the team is still a work in progress, trying to get fully prepared for its third act: Southeastern Conference play.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we’re going in the right direction,” Stock said. “I think we’re getting there.”

Coach Robin Pingeton is more optimistic. Pingeton said she was pleased with her young team’s progress.

“I think we’re about as ready as you could be with as young as we are,” Pingeton said.

Freshman guard Lianna Doty, who scored 14 points and led the team in points and assists in an 88-46 exhibition victory over Lindenwood on Tuesday, echoed the assessments.

“Everybody’s really excited, but we have a long way to go,” she said. “We have a lot to learn. We’ve seen just in the past week huge improvements, but there’s so much more that we need to improve on and keep working in practice on. We’re not anywhere close to where we need to be, but, obviously, we’re working toward that.”

Doty said she has already learned from her limited sample of two college exhibition games.

“There are different things that you could get away with in high school basketball that you can’t get away with in college basketball,” Doty said. “In college, they’re looking to take that charge. You need to be more under control when you get to the basket. I think I really need to strive to be under control, be able to reverse kick out, things like that that I haven’t had to do in high school.”

With Stock’s 19 points and Doty’s 14, along with transfer red shirt junior Bri Kulas’ 16, Missouri’s top three scorer’s from Tuesday are new to the program.

Senior guard Sydney Crafton, the team’s only four-year player, said she thinks the newcomers can repeat their performances, even with the added pressure of games that count.

“It’s just a matter of coming out and not being timid,” Crafton said.

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