Mya Bhinhar dribbles the ball

Sophomore Mya Bhinhar dribbles the ball during the Lady Bears’ game against Santa Clara Friday night at JQH. The Bears beat the Broncos 71-64.

Whenever sophomore Mya Bhinhar took the court in her first start as the Missouri State Lady Bears new point guard, she admitted there were nerves in the team’s exhibition game against Lincoln on Oct. 28. 

“I have some big shoes to fill,” Bhinhar said after the team’s 109-32 preseason win over the Blue Tigers.

Bhinhar replaces former star Danielle Gitzen, who posted 1,033 career points over a four-year career and was an integral part of two NCAA tournament teams for the Lady Bears. 

Missouri State has not skipped a beat so far this season at the point guard position. Bhinhar has filled the void, averaging 7.9 points per game while leading the team with 3.8 assists per game for head coach Amaka “Mox” Agugua-Hamilton’s team. 

She’s also helped the team to its fastest start since 1997 and a No. 19 ranking in USA Today’s Coaches poll released on Nov. 26. 

“Being under Danielle last year, she took me under her wing and showed me how I should play,” Bhinhar said. “She built my confidence, especially this coaching staff. They have built my confidence a lot with the drills we do. 

“Coach Mox is very approachable and tells me what I need to work on. It makes me just want to improve.”

Bhinhar is also relishing a leadership role. She said the coaches this season have pushed her to be more of a vocal leader on the court. 

“It’s definitely about building chemistry with them, and knowing how to approach each player is something I really care about,” Bhinhar said. “I love it. This year, it’s something I need to embrace.”

Game by game, Bhinhar continues to improve, according to Mox. 

In the semifinal game of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at Oklahoma on Nov. 14, everything came together for the first-year starter. She scored a career-high 19 points and dished out three assists in a 96-90 win over the Sooners. 

“Mya is getting better every game,” Mox said. “She is getting confident. At first, she lacked some confidence, but she is a big point guard that can handle the ball. She is finding a niche in our offense and where she can be a scorer. 

“If Mya can be consistent with scoring and assists she provides our team, she is going to be a problem to guard. She brings so much to this team. She helps us push that tempo. She can run for days. She loves the new system in the fast up-tempo game. She will continue to get better and better.”

Gitzen is not surprised by Bhinhar’s performance and how well she’s taken over the reins of the offense.

“I’m 100% not surprised,” Gitzen said. “Playing with her everyday, we were always guarding each other. Sometimes, I may have ganged up on her a little bit, but I think that pushed her to be a better player. She has accepted her role as the team’s point guard and team’s leader on the court.”

Bhinhar said she remembers some advice Gitzen gave her last year that she’s applied to her game this season. 

“She always told me to be confident and play loose,” Bhinhar said. “She always made sure if I made mistakes like, ‘You’re good. You need to have a quick memory. Just forget it.’ That is something I’ve tried to take into this year. 

“I’m thinking, ‘How can I get better?’ I really try to push off of that.”

Bhinhar also said seeing the success Gitzen had is something she strives for and will embrace in her future as the Lady Bears point guard. 

Gitzen said the biggest thing that impressed her about Bhinhar last year was her hunger to learn and willingness to improve and help the team in all aspects.

The drive to constantly improve makes Gitzen think Bhinhar has a chance to have a successful career at Missouri State. 

“My expectations for her are limitless,” Gitzen said. “There is no boundary for her.”

Recapping Lady Bears games

After traveling nearly 8,500 miles over the season’s first two weeks, the Lady Bears returned to JQH Arena to host Santa Clara on Nov. 22. 

In a game that featured 10 lead changes and a dozen ties, Missouri State outlasted Santa Clara 71-64 to improve to 5-1. 

Junior Emily Gartner finished with a career-high 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting. The 6-foot-4 post also made an impact on the glass, grabbing eight rebounds. 

The Lady Bears proved why they are perhaps the mid-major to beat on Nov. 25, defeating South Dakota 74-66. The Coyotes were the No. 1 ranked mid-major team in the country entering the game, according to College Insider. 

Senior Alexa Willard led all scorers with 21 points and finished with a career-high five 3-pointers. 

On Dec. 1, sophomore Jasmine Franklin posted a career-high 24 points as Missouri State routed Kansas City, 83-58. 

The Lady Bears continue its three-game homestand on Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. against Wichita State. 

Derek Shore is a Sports Reporter at The Standard. He is a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in communications. He started writing about sports for The Standard during the fall semester of 2018.