The nationally ranked Missouri women’s basketball team had no answer for a smaller and quicker Florida Gulf Coast team that outshot and outplayed the 5th seed Tigers in a season ending 80-70 loss. Junior Sophie Cunningham scored half of the team’s points finishing with 35, thanks in part to 14-of-16 at the free throw line. Those point were the most ever by a Tiger in a single NCAA Tournament game in program history.
“I just had the size advantage down low and my teammates were getting me the ball when I needed it, and when they collapsed, I gave it right back out to them. I just think the size advantage is what allowed me to get those easy points,” said Cunningham after the game.
FGCU had no player over 6’0 tall, but the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of their size. Instead, FGCU used their speed to draw fouls on players like Cierra Porter and Jordan Frericks. Early foul trouble and turnovers hurt the Tigers in the first half as FGCU outscored the Tigers 20-5 in that advantage. Mizzou coughed the ball up 16 times. Both Porter and Frericks fouled out with only 17 minutes under their belt.
“You know, I think it definitely hurt when you are starting four and five only played 17 minutes each, and so they didn’t play half a game, and I thought really that could be where we could take advantage of some things,” said head coach Robin Pingeton.
The Eagles were known as a great three-point shooting team and hit seven three’s on 17 attempts, but did damage on the low blocks in the first quarter out-scoring the Tigers 10-2 in the paint.
“But we talked about what a great 3-point shooting team they were. I thought we did a great job of that part of it for the most part. But the problem was, you know, just that one-on-one direct line defense,” said Pingeton.
In other words, FGCU out-hustled the 15th ranked Tigers.
Frericks finished her career with 1,433 career points (11th all-time), 1,032 career rebounds (2nd all-time) and 132 career blocked shots (5th all-time).
Cunningham finished the season with 574 points, the ninth-most in a campaign in program history and the most since Amanda Lassiter scored 610 in 2000-01.
Cunningham has 1,563 career points through three seasons, which ranks eighth all-time at Mizzou. She needs just 564 points to break the all-time Mizzou scoring record.