Missouri dominates Alabama, but tough road lies ahead

The Tigers cruised to an easy win on Sunday, yet their season has been anything but an easy cruise.
Junior guard Amber Smith, center, high fives teammates after a foul call in the first half of the Missouri vs. Alabama women's basketball game on Saturday, March 3 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.

Sunday was a day of honoring the past for Missouri women’s basketball. While the team honored its three seniors – Sophie Cunningham, Lauren Aldridge and Cierra Porter – it was also a day to look to the not-so-distant future.

The Missouri Tigers (21-9, 10-6) cruised to a 82-47 win over Alabama (13-16, 5-11). They were lead by Cunningham with 22 points with three other players in double figures. Porter and Aldridge scored 12 and 7 points, respectively.

The 35-point margin of victory was Missouri’s largest in any SEC win this season. It was the closest Missouri has played to perfect all season. It won the rebounding battle 33-28, had fewer turnovers than Alabama – with just 13 to the Crimson Tide’s 16 – and shot 53 percent from the floor.

This game was not indicative of what the Tigers’ season has been – Missouri has had its fair share of highs and lows – nor was it indicative to the road ahead. Missouri concluded the regular season with a 21-9 record and 10 conference wins. This is its third straight year with 10+ conference wins; the first time the program has done so since 1983-85. Missouri was then in the Big Eight. While the win numbers are impressive, this year has been a roller coaster. It suffered some “gut-wrenching” losses, as coach Robin Pingeton put it on a media day Saturday, to teams like Green Bay, South Dakota, Florida, Kentucky and LSU. On the flip side, it has beaten then-No. 10 Tennessee and then-No. 5 Mississippi State, both on the road.

There has also been off-the-court drama as well – Porter’s return, freshman Grace Berg’s transfer to Drake and freshman Akira Levy’s season-ending injury.

Most recently, the team was hit with the news of Director of Recruiting Willie Cox’s fight against cancer. Cox’s role for the team is to maintain successful recruiting efforts. This is his fourth season at this position, and his ninth overall at the university. His efforts have brought in the likes of Cunningham, Jordan Frericks and three top-70 recruits in the 2018 class.

Pingeton addressed the news of his fight for his life in what was an emotional press conference following Sunday’s victory.

“We love coach Cox,” Pingeton said Sunday. “He’s in a fight for his life and we want to love on him as he goes through this battle.”

Missouri will be the No. 5 seed at the SEC Tournament, and will play the winner of Florida and Ole Miss on March 7 in Greenville, South Carolina. MU beat Ole Miss 78-55 on Jan. 3 at Mizzou Arena, but lost to Florida 58-56 on the road on Jan. 13. The game will tip-off 25 minutes following the conclusion of the day’s first game between LSU and Tennessee, which is slated for 11 a.m. CST.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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