Mizzou women’s basketball holds off Abilene Christian in season opener

Lianna Doty had a career-high seven steals in the first round of the Preseason WNIT tournament.
Missouri senior guard Sierra Michaelis, 24, defends against Abilene Christian University's freshman guard Breanna Wright, 10, during the Mizzou home game facing the wildcats.

The Missouri women’s basketball team beat out the Abilene Christian Wildcats 52-46 on Friday in Mizzou Arena, winning its season opener and first round game of the WNIT tournament.

The game comes after the lead scorer, sophomore Sophie Cunningham, earned first-team preseason all-Southeastern Conference honors. She scored a game high of 13 points.

The game wasn’t a smooth and easy win.

Mizzou’s opponent was able to jump off to a quick lead at the beginning. Abilene Christian held its lead throughout much of the first quarter, but Mizzou was able to cut it down to a one-point deficit toward the end of the quarter.

Given this was the Wildcats’ first match against a nationally ranked team, Abilene Christian was able to keep up with Mizzou throughout much of the game thanks to a strong defense and constantly changing flow.

“We knew it would be hard to get into our flow offensively, just the way they change up their defense, from their one-to-one to their drop-back two-three to the occasional one-to-two,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said.

Rebounding, an area Mizzou lacks more than usual with the loss of senior Jordan Frericks to an ACL injury, also proved to make things complicated, as both teams had 37 rebounds each.

“A big key of us coming into the game was to limit their offensive possessions by blocking out the rebounding,” Abilene Christian coach Julie Goodenough said. “We were even in the rebound column, because we knew their size posed quite a challenge for us.”

Abilene Christian made up for its lack of size with speed, getting into the paint quicker, while Mizzou had trouble poking holes in the defense.

The second quarter was tightly contested, with both sides scoring consistently. Mizzou gained its first lead of the night with a layup from Cunningham with 5:28 left in the quarter.

Mizzou then lost that lead in the third quarter, shooting a notably bad 0-10 on the court.

“Frustration was setting in,” Pingeton said. “We had a handful of turnovers in our third quarter.”

She noted that the frustration came from the plays earlier in the game, where Mizzou “had good ball movement, and good looks, but we weren’t able to knock them down,” Pingeton said.

In the final quarter, however, everything changed as good plays for Mizzou on the team’s offense finally began translating to points. During one period, a flurry of points occurred when senior Sierra Michaelis drove to the basket for a layup. Right after, a turnover allowed Michaelis to make a 3-pointer. A steal by redshirt senior Lianna Doty happened soon after the 3-pointer, which turned into an easy layup. Then Michaelis made another shot thanks to another turnover by the Wildcats.

“We were pretty worn out down the stretch and had some turnovers during the fourth quarter that Missouri really capitalized on,” Goodenough said. “It was fatigue.”

By the time the fourth quarter was ending, Mizzou’s lead margin was wide enough to ensure a win.

Doty recorded a career high of seven steals, while sophomore Cierra Porter caught a career-high of 12 rebounds and had her second ever double-double.

Mizzou advances to the second round of the WNIT tournament, which features 11 high-quality teams that reached either the NCAA tournament or WNIT postseason tournaments last year. No. 1 Notre Dame is also participating.

Missouri will next play the winner of the Nebraska-Texas Rio Grande Valley game, with a location and date to be announced.

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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