Amber Smith leads MU to dominant win at West Virginia

With Sophie Cunningham going cold, Smith had herself a career night leading the Tigers to a nonconference victory.
Amber Smith dribbles around a Mississippi State defender to get the ball to the paint.

Led by a career night from junior Amber Smith, the Missouri Tigers (6-2, 0-0) women’s basketball team went into West Virginia and dominated its Big 12 hosts 68-51 on Sunday. Smith would tally a double-double, scoring a career-high 28 points and gathering 13 rebounds.

Missouri recently fell from the rankings after being a constant in the top 25 for the entirety of last season. Facing the No. 21 Mountaineers (4-2) on the road was a redemptive opportunity within the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

The first quarter was fast-paced with the Tigers outscoring the Mountaineers 20-17. Missouri began to pull away in the second quarter, though. It held West Virginia to just 6 points on 12.5 percent shooting. The only field goals the Mountaineers made were a pair of 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Missouri shot 38.5 percent from the field, draining five 3s. For the half, it shot 57 percent from the field. West Virginia’s largest lead was just 4 at the 6:17 mark of the first quarter, while Missouri pushed its lead all the way to 18 at the 3:14 mark in the fourth.

West Virginia never could get in rhythm, and just couldn’t gather enough momentum to stop the relentless Tiger offense. Behind Smith’s career-high 28 points, Missouri would not be stopped. Coach Robin Pingeton had said that she hoped her team continued to improve its rebounding numbers after the Florida Gulf Coast tournament.

Missouri did win the rebounding battle, 42-34. The Tigers had worked a lot on fundamentals in practice in the week prior to the matchup, and it proved to become a winning formula against West Virginia.

One fundamental that was not improved was the turnover ratio. The Tigers’ wide margin of victory came despite 15 turnovers, compared to just seven for West Virginia. The Mountaineers had only five steals, which meant the Tigers were turning the ball over without being pressured. Many of the turnovers were errant passes or wild drives to the basket that went awry.

Even with that flaw, the Tigers dominated on both sides on the floor. They held a team that came into the contest averaging 85.8 points to just 51. The offense showed up as well, even with senior Sophie Cunningham going cold.

Cunningham just had 4 points in 18 minutes before fouling out of the contest. She did not play the entirety of the second quarter, the second time that has happened this year. The Tigers have shown that they can win without their senior star by having other key contributors step up. Against Duke, it was redshirt junior Hannah Schuchts, this time it was Smith.

Junior Jordan Chavis, in her third start of the year, also had a steady night, making three 3s and totaling 11 points. As a team the Tigers were trigger-happy from outside, making 11 total 3s and converting 39 percent of their distance attempts. Missouri also improved its free throw numbers, shooting 70 percent from the charity stripe.

While majority of the Mountaineers had an off night, they were led by redshirt junior Tynice Martin with 18 points. Senior Katrina Pardee hit a milestone by joining the 1,000 point club.

Overall, the SEC-Big 12 Challenge ended in a tie, 5-5. Missouri’s road win will keep it on the verge of the top-25.

The Tigers will return home on Thursday, Dec. 6 for another nonconference matchup with the UMKC Kangaroos. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. CST.

Edited by Bennett Durando |

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