Missouri women’s basketball beats BYU in first round of NCAA tournament

Sophie Cunningham went 7-10 from the field and nabbed 20 points in her first appearance in post-season play.
Freshman Sophie Cunningham cheers on coach Robin Pingeton's 100th victory recognition before the Vanderbilt game on Feb 28 2016. The women's basketball team just beat BYU in the first round of the women's March Madness bracket. Maneater File Photo

The Missouri women’s basketball team, entering their first NCAA tournament in a decade, put the right plays together to defeat the Brigham Young Cougars 78-69 in Austin, Texas, to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This win is the Tigers’ first in the tournament since 2001 and couldn’t have come at a better time as Mizzou had lost their last three games, including the opener in the Southeastern Conference tournament against Auburn.

This matchup was a close, physically brutal match of attrition in which neither side was able to hold the lead for more than a few possessions. Combining for 53 total fouls between the two squads, it seemed like the game was played at the free-throw line more often than not.

Though both teams matched each other physically, there were key performances by the Tigers that led them to this historic win. Junior forward Jordan Frericks played like a leader in the ways she took on defenders, got herself open and rebounded in key times. Senior Morgan Stock found herself open on several good-looking occasions and was able to knock down three crucial three pointers that sent the Mizzou bench into elation.

Speaking of the bench, they provided key contributions on Saturday. Senior guard Juanita Robinson was crucial in the dying minutes of the game when BYU mounted a late fourth quarter comeback.

Forward Kayla McDowell, a player who has dealt with multiple injuries in her career, including a torn ACL, produced a physical performance that turned the tide of the game at certain points. She challenged for the ball, was aggressive on the boards and nabbed 3 assists and 8 points before the game was up.

It was these kind of performances by the entire squad that had been needed all along for Mizzou to take that next step in games. The only thing seemingly missing was bench depth, and there was plenty of that tonight.

Finally, a dazzling, superstar performance, most notably in the third quarter, from SEC Freshman of the Year Sophie Cunningham was the final piece to this win in Austin. The sensation went 7-10 from the field and nabbed 20 points in her first appearance in post-season play.

Coach Robin Pingeton gave a huge sigh of relief following the victory.

“We said before the game started it was going to be a battle and we asked ‘how are you gonna handle adversity?’” said the Tiger’s coach. “(Jordan) Frericks is our anchor and tonight she did a tremendous job.”

The No. 10 seed Tigers will face the winner of the Texas and Alabama State matchup March 21 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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