The Maneater

Missouri breaks home attendance record in 77-73 win over No. 11 Tennessee

The Tigers’ win emphasized the program’s growth and broke a five-team tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Members of the 2016-17 women’s basketball team pose for a picture before a game. Maneater file photo

Mizzou fans certainly had an impact on Mizzou’s matchup against No. 11 Tennessee. Such an impact that Mizzou head coach Robin Pingeton decided to address the fans directly after the game.

“I’m not going to lie: Coming out of the tunnel for this game, I got a little emotional thinking about how far we’ve come from eight years ago,” coach Pingeton said over the loudspeaker at Mizzou Arena. “This does not happen without you guys.”

The 11,092 in attendance for a 77-73 win broke a 16-year program attendance record formerly set at 10,321 in a 2002 home game against Kansas.

Junior forwards Cierra Porter and Sophie Cunningham, both 2015 graduates of Rock Bridge High School, got a special feeling from seeing those in the town they grew up in come out to support Missouri basketball on Sunday.

“[Sophie and I have] been in this town for a while, but we’ve seen the growth [of this program], and just to run out of the tunnel today and see all those people there to cheer you on and support you means so much and it makes things so much more fun and meaningful,” Porter said.

Cunningham’s response echoed Porter’s sentiment.

“This is kind of why me and CP came here, so that we could get this environment,” she said. “We don’t get time to step back and appreciate everything that this team and our coaches have done, but this was huge today. Running out of that tunnel, that’s what I dreamed of as a kid. It’s just so awesome that people are coming out to support us because we put in so much work and we deserve it, so it makes it a lot more fun.”

When asked about the impact of the fans on her Tennessee team, even Volunteers head coach Holly Warlick had lots to say on not only the fans, but coach Pingeton and the current climate of women’s basketball.

“I wouldn’t want to come here and play in front of 100 people,” Warlick said. “[The attendance record] speaks volumes for women’s basketball and this program. Robin and I are good friends and I guess a couple years ago, they were struggling a little bit and I’m like, ‘You’re going to be okay.’

“And to get the Cunninghams and the kids that are from Missouri, it means something. They’ll battle for you. And she’s got kids that are battling. They’ll play hard and fans want to watch that. That’s entertaining to them and I think the women’s game is really fun to watch because we’re athletic now, we’re physical. I think people here are recognizing that this team that Robin has is special.”

Not to be understated by Mizzou’s new attendance record, the Tigers’ win over the No. 11 team in the nation shook up the Southeastern Conference standings. Missouri’s win puts it at 22-5 on the season and 10-4 in the SEC, keeping the Tigers in third place in the conference and breaking what was a five-team tie for third.

If the season ended today, Missouri would be the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament, receiving a double bye before facing its first opponent.

The win over Tennessee is also likely to move the Tigers up in the next AP Poll and potentially gives them a higher seeding and a better chance to host heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Regarding the NCAA Tournament, Pingeton said her team doesn’t discuss its seeding too much.

“We don’t really talk a lot about it, but we’re aware,” said Pingeton. “Tonight, going into the game, my big thought was, we’re not in the same position we’ve been in the last couple of years. We’re going to go to the NCAA Tournament, we’ve positioned ourselves to be in a good spot and now, you know, it’s just kind of battling for seeding.”

In the latest bracketology, Charlie Creme has the Tigers hosting and in the Spokane region, placing them as the third-best No. 4 seed in the tournament.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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