Mizzou knocked off No. 25 Texas A&M, 78-76, in an overtime thriller at Mizzou Arena on Thursday night. Mizzou improved to 13-7 this season and 3-3 in SEC play. The victory marked Mizzou’s first home win over Texas A&M since 2005. The Tigers have now won three consecutive games over ranked opponents at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers were bolstered by an incredible performance from sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham (Columbia, Mo.). Cunningham poured in a season-high 36 points (10-of-19 FG, 14-of-15 FTs), including a game-tying reverse layup with three seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Cunningham was phenomenal from the charity stripe all night, converting on 14-of-15 free throws, 10 of which came after the 1:04 mark in the fourth quarter. The 14 free throws were a career-high and just three shy of tying the program record in a single game.
Cunningham also added seven rebounds and four assists. Her 36-point outburst is the best performance by any SEC player in conference play this season.
Sophomore forward Cierra Porter (Columbia, Mo.) also shined in a physical battle down low, scoring 14 points and hauling in 13 rebounds. Porter now has nine double-doubles this season. She was a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line, all of which came in the overtime period.
In the early going, the Tigers combined efficient scoring with stifling defense as they went on a commanding 15-0 run to take a 17-9 advantage after one quarter. The impressive swing was highlighted by back-to-back three pointers from Sophie Cunningham and senior guard Lindsey Cunningham (Columbia, Mo.). Sophie was a key contributor early, pouring in eight first-quarter points. The Tigers dug in defensively as they held the Aggies scoreless for eight minutes and 33 seconds during the middle of the period. Overall, the defensive effort held Texas A&M to just 4-of-13 shooting in the first frame. Mizzou has now outscored SEC opponents 98-63 during the first quarter of contests this season.
As the game progressed, the Tigers continued to operate effectively on offense. Sophie Cunningham had another impressive quarter as she ended the first half with 14 points on 75 percent shooting. Porter controlled the boards, tallying five rebounds by halftime. The Tigers ended the first half by converting four of their final six shots and held a 30-22 advantage at the break.
The beginning of the second half was a back and forth affair as both teams traded baskets. The Tigers pushed the lead back to eight after senior guard Lianna Doty (St. Louis, Mo.) knocked in a mid-range jumper with 5:24 left in third quarter. Following a scoring spurt from Texas A&M, Sophie Cunningham flicked in an acrobatic reverse layup in the closing seconds of the third to give the Tigers a 43-37 advantage.
To start the fourth, the Aggies stormed back with a 13-0 run to take a 50-45 lead with 5:12 remaining in the ballgame. However, Sophie Cunningham stopped the bleeding with a corner three less than a minute later to trim the Aggie lead to two. The Tigers pulled even at the 3:37 mark when Porter snagged an offensive board and converted inside. Shortly after Texas A&M scored on back-to-back trips to build a five-point lead, Sophie Cunningham and Doty calmly converted on four clutch free throws to pull within one with 17.5 seconds left.
Mizzou then forced a five-second violation on a Texas A&M inbound situation with 16.2 remaining. After a Mizzou missed shot, the Tigers sent Texas A&M sophomore and SEC leading scorer Danni Williams to the line. Williams made one free throw and the Aggies held a 56-54 lead with 7.2 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Mizzou inbounds play, Sophie Cunningham received the ball, drove to the right, navigated the baseline, and found enough space to finish a nifty reverse layup with 3.0 seconds on the clock. Texas A&M’s half-court heave at the buzzer was off the mark and the game headed to overtime.
Lindsey Cunningham opened the overtime scoring with a clutch three from the top of the key. Minutes later, after an Aggie bucket, Porter was fouled and made both free throws. Texas A&M responded with a basket, but Cunningham was sent back to the line and drained both attempts to give the Tigers a 67-64 lead. After a key defensive stop, Porter drove baseline and scored inside to extend the Mizzou lead to five with 1:09 remaining.
Texas A&M battled back to cut the lead to two and with just 14.4 seconds left, Cunningham was sent back to the free throw line. She calmly sank both attempts and gave Mizzou a 74-70 advantage. Shortly after, Porter converted on another pair of free throws to ice the game. Overall, the Tigers shot an exceptional 27-of-33 (81.8 percent) from the free throw line.
Mizzou now hits the road for a trip to border rival Arkansas on Monday. The game is set to tip off at 6 p.m. on SEC Network.