Oct. 29, 2012
By: Grace Duggan, Media Relations Student Assistant
As the Missouri Women's Basketball program looks forward to its fresh start in the Southeastern Conference, there is much to be excited about heading into the 2012-2013 campaign. After finishing the season five games below .500 (13-18 record overall), the Tigers are looking forward to facing new challenges and new opponents in a brand new conference. Although the Tigers boasted a strong start to their season last year in non-conference play (11-2 in non-conference play), they fell short against previous conference rivals from the Big 12 with 12 straight losses (2-16 in conference games).
Head Coach Robin Pingeton enters her third year at Mizzou and will be coaching a very young and inexperienced team. Nine of the 14 Tigers that make up this year's roster are in their sophomore year or younger.
"It just has be a record out there somewhere nationally how young our team is," said Pingeton.
The Tigers will look to the likes of sophomore Kyley Simmons and seniors Sidney Crafton and Liene Priede to provide some veteran leadership to a relatively young and new team. They welcome a plethora of new talent this year, including six freshmen and one transfer. Crafton looks to build off of her junior season, where she averaged 6.2 points per game along with 4.4 rebounds. During the off-season, Sydney worked on her shot in particular.
"I know that is something I lacked last year, I would be wide open and not shoot it, so I made a point that this year if I was open I would shoot it," said Crafton.
"She is really trying to take some ownership of this team and that is what you expect from your senior," said Pingeton.
Along with Simmons, Morgan Eye will also add some experience to the Mizzou roster. The two sophomores are coming off productive first seasons at Mizzou. Simmons was the only player on Mizzou's roster last season to start every game and shot 41 percent from the field. These numbers earned Simmons a place on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team. Morgan Eye will also add some scoring to the Mizzou roster. Last season, she led the team with in three-pointers made with 177 and had the third highest scoring average on the team with 8.1 points per game. The two sophomores have worked throughout the off-season to get better and improve their skills.
"I worked on making my shot fast, but also with the defense flying at me I was to be able to pump fake and go to the hole," said Eye.
In her third year at the helm, Pingeton not only faces the challenge of a young and inexperienced team, but also joining the expanded Southeastern Conference with new opponents and new styles of play. The schedule for the upcoming season will surely prove to be even more a challenge than the final season in the Big 12. Mizzou will start off the season with 11 home non-conference games, along with a trip to the annual Cancun Challenge starting on November 22nd. The Tigers will match up against six teams ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Pre-season Top 25 poll, highlighted by perennial contenders Tennessee and Kentucky.
"Going into our third year in the Big 12, we get a pretty good feel for style of play and personnel and for philosophies and now we have to start all over again," said Pingeton." "We'll get there, but there is going to be a learning curve. We are still in the early years of turning a program and changing the culture. Typically, I think this is going to be a good year, a growing year for us."
With seven newcomers on the team, each has had to adapt to a new program and new teammates. Freshman twins Morgan and Maddie Stock headline an extremely solid group of incoming freshman, and junior forward Bri Kulas brings her 12.0 points-per-game average from 2011 to Mizzou from Johnson County Community College.
One of Mizzou's biggest things this year could be the depth they have off of the bench. The roster of 14 could really grind through some minutes in the first year in the SEC.
"We have a lot of different weapons and I think we are going to play a lot different than we played a year ago because of personnel," said Pingeton.
The season will kick off with two exhibition games versus Lincoln and Lindenwood. The Tigers will play St. Louis University in their first game on November 9th at Mizzou Arena. SEC play will begin when Mizzou meets up with Georgia at their place in Athens on January 3, 2013.
"The intensity in practice shows how hungry these players are. They love the game and the chemistry is outstanding so far," said Pingeton. "I think we continue to get better everyday but we still have a lot of work to do."
The Tigers' home exhibition contest against Lincoln will tip-off Tuesday at 7 p.m. Keep checking in to MUTigers.com for more information, and follow the team on Twitter (@MissouriWBB).
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