No. 25 Missouri women’s basketball ready for NCAA Tournament

After one of the most successful regular seasons in program history, the Tigers are ready for the tournament.

Freshman guard Jordan Roundtree, 2, freshman guard Jordan Chavis, 10, senior guard Lianna Doty, 1, and senior guard Lindsey Cunningham, 11, circle up during the home game facing Ole Miss.

Despite falling to No. 6 Texas A&M 62-48 in disappointing fashion in the team’s first game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the outlook is still positive for Missouri women’s basketball. The 2016-17 regular season was strong for the Tigers, and they are still poised to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 17.

The Tigers made huge strides this season, legitimizing themselves as a powerhouse in the SEC with multiple victories over ranked opponents and 11 conference wins.

The team finished the regular season ranked No. 23 in the nation, with a 21-10 record and just five conference losses. Given the injuries the Tigers sustained to begin the season, their success is even more impressive. Senior Jordan Frericks and junior Bri Porter both suffered season-ending ACL injuries before the Tigers’ first game. With the injuries, Mizzou lost its leader in rebounds over the last three years in Frericks and a key bench player in Porter.

Sophomore Cierra Porter, who now wears her sister Bri Porter’s number as a show of support, helped fill the void. She leads the team in rebounds (eight per game) and blocks (43) and is second in points (13.3 per game) while shooting 46 percent from the field.

Sophomore Sophie Cunningham’s game also continued to grow, as she built off a strong freshman season in which she was named SEC Freshman of the Year. She stepped her game up even further in her sophomore season, leading the team in points per game (17.7 points) and field goal percentage (48 percent) on her way to a first-team all-SEC selection.

She finished the regular season with 10 20-point performances along with three 30-point games. Her highest point total came on Feb. 23 when Cunningham exploded for 32 points against Ole Miss. Cunningham is the only player to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line and 45 percent from the field in the SEC this season.

Coach Robin Pingeton became the first Mizzou head coach to win SEC Coach of the Year since 1990 for guiding her team through adversity this season. Pingeton led the Tigers to three wins over top-25 teams Kentucky, Texas A&M and South Carolina. Dating back to the 2015-16 season, the Tigers have now won five straight home games versus top-25 opponents.

The Tigers now wait for Selection Sunday on March 13, when they will find out their region and first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament. This is the team’s second consecutive tournament appearance and its second appearance in Pingeton’s five years at Mizzou. As the No. 25 team in the nation, Mizzou will likely find themselves somewhere around a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the tournament.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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