Missouri struggles in conference play

The SEC has six different teams in the AP Top 25 Poll, including three in the top-10 and the number one spot.
Taylor Blatchford / Graphic Designer

The Missouri women’s basketball team has hit a rough patch.

The name of that rough patch? The Southeastern Conference.

Going into conference play, the Tigers were on a roll, with a 10-3 record and enough healthy players to have at least some depth on their bench.

Now seven games in, Mizzou has fallen to 11-9 overall and has only nine eligible players without injury.

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, the team has resisted dwelling on it.

“I’m a person that’s in the present, but in the big picture, if we had our healthy roster, golly, we’re right where we wanna be,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “But we don’t, and here’s where we’re at. We just have to continue to challenge our players and help them get better at what they’re doing.”

With six teams in the AP Top 25 Poll, the SEC is one of the toughest, if not the toughest league in the country.

This means Mizzou has faced a ranked opponent in five of its last seven games, a difficult road for any team.

“The SEC is one of those conferences that you’re playing against future WNBA players and just the best of the best,” senior guard and captain Morgan Eye said. “You have to bring your best, day in and day out.”

The one team that Missouri has prevailed over during conference play is Florida, a win that called for a comeback after the Tigers were down 10 points.

This Thursday, Mizzou takes on the Gators again and hopes to secure its second win since Dec. 22.

Florida had multiple injured players during the last meeting, but now has a full roster, which Pingeton said worries her a bit, especially in the backcourt.

“I anticipate we’ll see a little more full-court pressure than we did,” Pingeton said. “We saw some (last game), but I think they’ll take it to another level on the home court with a full roster.”

Pingeton explained that the team has been spending a lot of time watching film and talking about game flow and shot selection.

The fourth-year coach emphasized there has been a lot of maturation on the team, especially in the point guards who have replaced injured junior guard Lianna Doty.

“I feel like there’s growth,” Pingeton said. “I look at Lindsey Cunningham and Maddie Stock and I think they’re doing a better job of dictating the tempo a little bit.”

It hasn’t been perfect, however, and Pingeton expressed that there have been plenty of turnovers that need cleaning up.

While it may be true that this squad is having a difficult time, the spirit in the locker room has not wavered.

“I feel like we’re a positive team and we just have to think about the next play, the next game,” sophomore guard Sierra Michaelis said. “The SEC is the most athletic conference, but I feel like we’re sticking right in there.”

Along with the team’s morale staying intact, Pingeton’s high opinion of her players has continued.

“I don’t think confidence is an issue,” she said. “Certainly not toughness, certainly not grit, so from my perspective, I couldn’t be more proud of them. They seem to be right on point.”

With nine games left in the season, along with the conference tournament, there’s still plenty of time for the Tigers to turn things around.

And the hungry team has a gameplan to get back on track.

“I think we have to focus more on ourselves right now, see what we can fix,” sophomore forward Jordan Frericks said. “We need to come each game prepared, ready to bring the energy. We can’t take any opponent lightly.”

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