Missouri women’s basketball kicked off a four-game homestand with a 72-60 win over Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Wednesday night. The much-needed Tigers victory comes in the wake of a brutal showing at IUPUI on Sunday, where Missouri lost by 28 points.
Without leading scorer Sophie Cunningham in the lineup Wednesday, Missouri fans were left wondering which Tiger would pick up the slack offensively. They weren’t left guessing for long. Senior guard Sierra Michaelis opened the game by hitting a 3-pointer on each of the Tigers’ first three possessions, giving the Tigers an early 9-0 lead. Michaelis’ hot hand would serve to lead Missouri offensively throughout, as the senior finished with 24 points on the night.
Despite going down early, SIUE was persistent and kept the game close, trailing by just five points after two quarters. They continued to challenge the Tigers in the second half, but several Missouri scoring runs served to be the game's deciding factors, and the Tigers ultimately pulled away.
This was an encouraging victory for Missouri, as the Tigers displayed their resolve in rebounding from a tough loss and showed that they can still win without their leading scorer.
Here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
Sophie Cunningham missing from the lineup
Prior to tip-off, there was no indication that sophomore Sophie Cunningham would not be playing on Wednesday. In fact, her injury was a total unknown until the starting lineup was released before the game.
After the game, a predictably tight-lipped coach Robin Pingeton let on that Cunningham was suffering from a lower back injury and that her star guard was “day-to-day.” When asked to elaborate further, Pingeton emphasized that her focus is on the bigger picture.
The Tigers proved on Wednesday that they can make up for Cunningham’s scoring if needed. And the sustained elevated performance from forward Cierra Porter gives Missouri another reliable scorer to lean on. But to succeed in the long run, the Tigers will need Sophie Cunningham healthy.
Lianna Doty: Swiss Army Knife
This season, redshirt senior Lianna Doty has done it all for the Tigers. She’s defended, she’s rebounded, she’s done her part on the offensive end, and night in, night out, she has been an absolute menace in forcing defensive turnovers.
All season long, Doty has served as the Tigers’ Swiss Army Knife, doing everything and anything she can for the team.
Wednesday night was her masterpiece. Stepping up in Cunningham’s absence, Doty played 37 minutes and finished with nine points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Off the court for just three minutes, Doty seemed to be everywhere and wreaked havoc on SIUE on both ends of the court.
After undergoing season-ending foot surgery early in 2014 and struggling to break back into the lineup last season, Doty seems to be making the most of her final year in Columbia.
Sierra Michaelis comes up big
For the Tigers, Sierra Michaelis has been a consistent threat from deep for the entire season. All told, she has hit 20 3-pointers on the season, leading the team in both 3-pointers made and 3-pointers attempted.
Despite her previous offensive outputs, her scoring explosion Wednesday night came as a surprise to nearly everyone at Mizzou Arena. Michaelis hit three more 3’s after opening the game with three consecutive 3-pointers made, finishing with a total of six 3-pointers on the night with 8-16 shooting overall.
Her scoring outburst was huge in the absence of Sophie Cunningham, and with Cunningham’s status for Friday night’s contest against Wichita State in question, Michaelis may be asked once again to carry much of the offensive burden.
The Tigers are back in action Friday night as they take on the Wichita State Shockers at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.
Edited by Peter Baugh | email@example.com