Eight most significant MU sports moments of 2018-2019

Sports editor Emily Leiker and outgoing sports editor Adam Cole looked back at some of the biggest sports moments of this year. It’s up to you to decide the most significant.
Junior guard Jordan Roundtree, left, high fives senior Sophie Cunningham during the second half of the Missouri vs. Alabama women's basketball game on Saturday, March 2 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

NCAA hands down sanctions to MU football, baseball, softball

Missouri’s NCAA D1 infractions case from 2016 was finally ruled upon by committee on Jan. 31, imposing a list of sanctions for football, baseball and softball.

Those sanctions included a single-season post-season ban for each of the three sports, a 5% reduction in scholarships as well as other recruiting sanctions, a fine of $5,000 plus 1% of each of the football, softball and baseball budgets, three years of NCAA probation and a vacation of wins.

MU athletic director Jim Sterk announced the school’s decision to appeal the sanctions on the same day they were released. Missouri has since filed its 64-page written appeal and is awaiting an in-person appearance date from the NCAA.

The appeals process postpones the enforcement of the sanctions, meaning softball and baseball are able to participate in this year’s postseason. Football’s chance at a 2019 bowl game will depend on how long the appeals process lasts.

Cunningham becomes all-time leading scorer, first WNBA Mizzou draftee

The “Mayor of Columbia,” Sophie Cunningham, fully cemented her status as an MU legend this season.

Cunningham scored 33 points in MU’s second-round SEC Tournament loss to Mississippi State, and became MU’s all-time leading scorer off a jumper in the first quarter. She surpassed Joni Davis’ previous record of 2,127 points. The record is now 2,187, as Cunningham and the Tigers played two rounds in the NCAA Tournament as well.

Following a successful career at Missouri during which Cunningham started every game she played in, totaling almost 5,000 minutes, she was drafted in the second-round of the 2019 WNBA Draft as the No. 13 pick to the Phoenix Mercury. Cunningham is the first Mizzou player to continue her basketball career in the WNBA.

Bryant transfers to MU

Any uncertainty surrounding the aftermath of quarterback Drew Lock’s time at Missouri ceased to a halt well before his career came to an end in the Liberty Bowl, as former Clemson quarterback and prized transfer Kelly Bryant announced his intent to transfer to Mizzou in December. The redshirt senior chose MU over Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State and North Carolina.

Bryant left Clemson after being benched for true freshman Trevor Lawrence four games into the 2018 season. Bryant finished his time at Clemson with 3,338 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns. He also led Clemson to a College Football Playoff semi-final his junior year. Bryant finished the 2019 Black and Gold Spring Game with 150 yards passing.

The likely pique of Bryant’s interest in transferring to MU stems from a recently renovated offensive style that, under first-year offensive coordinator Derek Dooley in 2018, saw multi-tooled efficiency through the air and ground. The pro-style of offense utilized now-Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock’s arm and propelled MU to an average of 36.9 points per game. Bryant will look to find early-round draft status while helming the MU offense.

Porter tears ACL, out for season

Jontay Porter was all smiles in front of a crowd at Mizzou Arena when the men’s and women’s basketball programs participated in their season kickoff, Mizzou Madness. The next morning, news broke that the sophomore would be out for the season.

During a secret scrimmage against Southern Illinois University on Oct. 21, Porter suffered a combo ACL and MCL tear on a bad landing.

In his freshman season, Porter made 33 appearances in games and averaged 9.9 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. He was named SEC Co-Sixth Man as well as being named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Porter retore his ACL again in March while doing on-the-court rehab in Denver.

Porter had tested the NBA Draft waters alongside his brother, Michael Porter Jr., following the 2017-2018 season. Jontay announced he would be declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft on Friday, April 19 per a press release.

Wrestling finishes top-10 in NCAAs for fifth consecutive year

At this year’s National Championships, Missouri coach Brian Smith’s wrestling squad continued its ascension with its fifth consecutive top-10 national finish and its ninth top-10 national finish all-time. All nine of those top-10s have come under Smith, who took over the program in 1998.

No. 8 John Erneste, No. 5 Jaydin Eierman, No. 4 Brock Mauller and No. 2 Daniel Lewis all finished with All-Americans in their respective weight classes.

Smith’s resume includes all eight of MU’s national champions, as well as 32 All-Americans prior to the 18-19 season.

Mauller and No. 13 Jarrett Jacques were both true freshmen competitors at nationals for the Tigers and are likely next in line after departures from Lewis and an Olympic redshirt from Eierman in 19-20.

Mizzou football road win over ranked Florida

Missouri football marched into enemy territory in early November and came out with its first SEC win of 2018, 38-17, against the then-No. 13 Gators. The win was also Missouri coach Barry Odom’s first over a ranked opponent since taking the helm of MU football.

However, the win was by no means sure fire for the Tigers. Florida thought it caught Missouri unaware for a 60-yard freak fumble return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. That would have cut the deficit to 11 and ignited a radical momentum switch. Instead, it was ruled a 77-yard catch for wideout Emanuel Hall and put the Tigers in scoring position. The scenario was a precarious one, as Missouri had failed to deal a knockout blow to opponents numerous times to that point in the season.

Against South Carolina, the Tigers led 17-7 and 23-14 before succumbing to a last-second, come-from-behind field goal. They were seconds away against No. 11 Kentucky the week prior, until a walk-off touchdown completed a late rally from down 14-3. Even against Purdue, Missouri lost 27-10 and 37-27 leads before winning on the final play, and a 21-0 lead nearly disappeared two weeks prior against Memphis.

The Tigers rode out the momentum of the win at UF to win out their final three games of the regular season before losing on a game-deciding drive in the Liberty Bowl to Oklahoma State.

Mizzou women’s basketball beats No. 5 Mississippi State on road

Cierra Porter sunk a triple with 41 seconds left in the game to seal a 75-67 victory over No. 5 Mississippi State on Feb. 14 in Starkville, Mississippi. It was the only points the senior scored all game.

Porter’s fellow senior Sophie Cunningham scored 24 points in the road win after being a gametime decision due to sickness the entire night before. She ended up playing 38 of 40 minutes, recording six rebounds and three assists on top of her points.

Junior Amber Smith scored 16 points for MU and freshman Akira Levy added 10.

The win bumped Missouri to a 19-7, 8-4 record. The Tigers would finish the season 24-11 and 10-6, advancing to the second rounds of both the SEC Tournament, where they lost against the Bulldogs, and the NCAA Tournament.

Eierman announces Olympic redshirt

Eierman – a three-time defending Mid-American Conference champion in his weight class – announced he’d be spending his 2019-20 season training for the 2020 Olympics. Before Mizzou, he was a four-time state champion at Father Tolton Catholic High School.

Eierman will have three shots to qualify for the games, which will take place in Tokyo, Japan. The first of those shots will be the 2019 World Championships in September in Astana, Kazakhstan. If he fails to qualify then, his next chance will be at the Pan American Qualification Tournament on April 3 to 5 of 2020, the location of which has not yet been named. His last chance will be less than a month later beginning on April 30 at the World Qualification Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Eierman isn’t the first MU wrestler to try his hand in the Olympics. In 2016, J’den Cox of the 197 weight class took home the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics and Ben Askren competed in the ‘08 competition. Unlike Eierman, Both Askren and Cox used all four of their years of collegiate eligibility consecutively, competing in Beijing and Brazil during their MU careers.

Despite missing next season, Eierman intends to rejoin Missouri for his final year of eligibility in 2020-21. Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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