The Maneater

Amber Smith carries Mizzou women’s basketball to 73-59 win over Kansas State

Smith had a career-high 23 points and shot 48 percent from beyond the arc, while star guard Sophie Cunningham registered just one point.

Freshman guard Amber Smith, 23, pushes past Auburn defender Jessica Jones, 23, at Mizzou Arena on Jan. 26.

Thursday was a night of surprises for Missouri women’s basketball.

Sophie Cunningham, who averages 17.8 points per game, didn’t put any points on the board until the fourth quarter, finishing with just one point for the Tigers.

However, a career night from sophomore guard Amber Smith led to a powerful performance from the Tigers and another tally in the win column, as they beat the Kansas State Wildcats 73-59 Thursday night at Mizzou Arena.

Smith’s performance was frustrating for Wildcat head coach Jeff Mittie and his team.

“She seemed to hit all the shots that caused us problems,” Mittie said. “She hit shots at the end of the shot clock, both first and second half, shots that were daggers when we’d get on runs. In the second half, she seemed to have the ball in her hands late.”

Smith finished the night with a team- and career-high 23 points, shooting 60 percent from the field and 5 for 8 from beyond the arc. She also had five rebounds and four assists.

Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton wasn’t surprised by Smith’s performance.

“I think a lot of people — and rightfully so — talk about Cierra [Porter], Sophie [Cunningham] and Jordan [Frericks], and they deserve that, but I don’t know how you can forget about Amber,” Pingeton said. “She’s coming off a great season last year.”

As a freshman, Smith averaged 5.9 points per game for Mizzou and was the 2017 SEC Co-Freshman of the Year.

Aside from Smith, Mizzou had three other players in double figures on Thursday. Cierra Porter had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers, while Lauren Aldridge had 11 points and Jordan Frericks had 10.

On the other side of a great night from Smith and the Tigers was Cunningham’s one-point performance, which saw her finish 0 for 4 from the field.

Through it all, Pingeton didn’t see it as a bad game for Cunningham.

“You know, I told her tonight I was probably more proud of her than I’d ever been,” Pingeton said. “It’s hard. When you’ve got a scoring mentality, and you’re used to scoring the ball that’s really hard. But I thought she handled it well today.”

As a team, Mizzou shot 52 percent from the field and was 48 percent beyond the arc. The team also had 17 assists. Pingeton saw the night as a prime example of team basketball.

“[Smith] continues to get more comfortable,” Pingeton said. “I thought Lauren Aldridge had some big shots for us in that first half; I thought Jordan Chavis had some big shots. It was just really unselfish basketball. We moved the ball really well, and kids were knocking down shots, so a great team effort.”

The No. 19 Tigers will take the court again on Saturday at 2 p.m. against New Orleans at Mizzou Arena.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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