Pingeton, Cunningham and Smith among recipients of top SEC basketball awards

Coach Robin Pingeton became the second coach in program history to earn Coach of the Year honors.

Coach Robin Pingeton talks with senior Lindsey Cunningham, 11, during the home game facing Texas A&M.

Missouri women’s basketball had a big morning Tuesday as head coach Robin Pingeton, sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham and freshman guard Amber Smith all received conference honors for their performances this season.

Pingeton was named the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year for leading the Tigers to an 21-9 record en route to a No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament. She became the second coach in program history to receive Coach of the Year honors. Joann Rutherford, who coached the Tigers from from 1975 to 1998, was given the award three separate times, in 1984, 1985 and 1990.

This is Pingeton’s third time receiving Coach of the Year honors. She won the award in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2004 and 2010 while coaching at Illinois State.

Cunningham was named to the All-Conference first team Tuesday. After being named to the All-SEC freshman team last year, Cunningham came out even stronger this season and led the Tigers with 17.8 points per game, second in the SEC. She becomes the first Tiger to receive an All-Conference pick since Bri Kulas in 2014.

The Rock Bridge High School graduate also received a pair of National Player of the Week honors in February, averaging 22.8 points per game in seven games during the month.

Smith was tabbed for this year’s All-SEC freshman team. The guard has had an impressive first year with the Tigers and is on pace to break the program’s single-season 3-point percentage record. She shot 48.5 percent from behind the arc in the regular season and finished second among freshmen in the SEC.

The start of the season for Pingeton’s Tigers was tumultuous, as the team lost two key players before a single minute was played. All-SEC senior forward Jordan Frericks and junior forward Bri Porter each suffered ACL tears in preseason workouts. The injuries left the Tigers without two key players from last year’s team that made an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Despite the loss of Frericks and Porter, the Tigers pushed forward. Proven starters continued to perform at a high level, and previously unsung players became key contributors on one of the nation’s deepest teams, with nine players who play at least 8.5 minutes per game.

The Tigers won 11 conference games to finish in third place in the SEC, and the team had a 15-1 record on their home floor.

They now head to Greenville, South Carolina, for the SEC Tournament this weekend after being moved up to No. 23 in the nation Monday.

After receiving a double bye as the No. 3 seed in the tournament, the Tigers will face either No. 14-seeded Arkansas, No. 11-seeded Florida or No. 6-seeded Texas A&M on Friday. Missouri has had wins over all three teams this season.

Edited by Nancy Coleman | ncoleman@themaneater.com

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