Missouri dominates Vanderbilt as Robin Pingeton collects 500th career win

The Tigers never trailed the Commodores en route to their second consecutive win.
Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton watches a video commemorating her 500th win as a head coach after MU's matchup with Vanderbilt on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019.

The buzzer sounded, and everyone in white jerseys converged on coach Robin Pingeton. It was a fairly ordinary victory, but one that Missouri players and their coach will remember for a long time.

MU’s (18-7, 7-4 SEC) 69-46 win over Vanderbilt (6-17, 1-9) was the 500th of Pingeton’s coaching career. A crowd of 4,857 gathered at Mizzou Arena to witness the milestone, which was capped with a postgame ceremony featuring messages from Pingeton’s former players and colleagues on the video board. Pingeton was also presented a bouquet and a framed poster by Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk.

“This isn’t just about me,” Pingeton said. “I’ve coached some great players; I’ve had some great assistant coaches; I’ve had some great administrations, great fan bases. This is so much bigger than one person, and just a fun day.”

Pingeton has been through plenty of hard-fought games and down-to-the-wire matchups in her career, but Sunday’s benchmark win was likely one of her smoothest.

The Tigers wasted no time getting in front, as senior Sophie Cunningham knocked in four straight 3-pointers to give Missouri a 12-2 lead midway through the first quarter. Vanderbilt struggled against the Tiger defense, shooting just 22.6 percent from the field in the first half. Mizzou went into the break with a 29-15 lead.

“For us to start out strong I think is huge, but we maintained it,” Cunningham said. “Everyone stepped up.”

The second half was hardly different from the first. Missouri continued to build its lead with an 8-0 run in the middle of the third quarter, and never looked back. By the end of the afternoon, all 13 healthy Tigers saw action as Pingeton was able to clear her bench in the final few minutes.

Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White lauded Pingeton for her progress building Missouri’s program, especially her recruiting prowess within the state of Missouri.

“She’s done an outstanding job,” White said. “You look at how she’s been able to rebuild this program and what she’s been able to do as far as keep the local talent local ... when you get kids who grew up in the state and take a lot of pride in wearing the home jerseys, it builds something special.”

Missouri’s local talent certainly showed itself on Sunday. Cunningham and senior Cierra Porter, both Columbia natives, were Mizzou’s leading scorers with 27 and 15 points, respectively. It was Porter’s highest point total since her return from medical retirement in December.

“Honestly, it’s my teammates,” Porter said. “They got me the ball in really good positions to be able to score easily. There was a period of time when [Vanderbilt] went small ball, and we just exploited that because our guards are bigger.”

Pingeton’s head coaching career began at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she won 191 games over eight seasons at the NAIA level. After a few years as an assistant at Iowa State, she landed her first NCAA lead job at Illinois State. After 144 wins with the Redbirds she made the move to Missouri, where Sunday’s victory became her 169th with the Tigers and 500th overall.

“She just feeds so much energy into us every single day, and we were all focused on getting it for coach P today,” Cunningham said. “Everyone stepped up … but today was her day.”

The Tigers won’t have too much time to dwell on their celebratory mood. They had little trouble against one of the SEC’s struggling programs on Sunday, but a daunting road test at No. 5 Mississippi State awaits Thursday night.

“As soon as this is done ... I guarantee you we’re moving on,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got a big game in front of us, and again, this is just a number ... this train’s moving, and we don’t have too much time to worry about number 500, or 498, or 320.”

The Tigers and Bulldogs will tip off at 8 p.m. CST on Thursday night.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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