Mizzou women’s basketball upsets No. 25 Texas A&M in overtime thriller

A clutch shot from Sophie Cunningham helped the Tigers’ to their first home win over the Aggies since 2005.
Senior guard Sierra Michaelis, 24, jumps to the basket looking to fend off the contact from her Aggie defender.

All signs pointed toward Thursday night being a breeze for the Texas A&M women’s basketball team.

The Aggies had just entered the national top-25 rankings as No. 25 in the Associated Press poll. They were third in the Southeastern Conference, and Mizzou was 11th. And they outranked Mizzou in SEC play so far in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounding, assists and steals — some of them by huge margins.

But Thursday night’s game turned out differently than expected, with Missouri women’s basketball knocking off the Aggies 78-76.

For Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, the loss did not necessarily come as a shock. After the game, he expressed his respect for the Tigers.

“They should be 4-1 [in the SEC] before this game was played. They were two possessions away from 4-1,” Blair said, referring to the two tight losses Mizzou had against Kentucky and Alabama, both within two points.

Underrated or not, Mizzou could have had a repeat of those two losses Thursday night, where the Tigers were down by two with just 7.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But sophomore Sophie Cunningham tipped in a reverse layup to push the game to overtime, and eventually Texas A&M was the team down by two points.

Cunningham shot 10-19 from the court for a game-high 36 points.

“We didn’t have anybody that could guard her one-on-one, and we continued to foul her,” Blair said. “I had to put [a guard] on her because I couldn’t trust my forwards to guard her. That was a mismatch. I give Cunningham a lot of credit.”

Those fouls were critical, especially in maintaining Mizzou’s overtime lead. It only helped the Tigers that they had an 82 free-throw percentage compared to the Aggies’ 45. Missouri remains first in the SEC from the free-throw line after last night.

While Cunningham shined in the game, sophomore Cierra Porter also contributed 14 points and helped Mizzou outscore the Aggies in the paint. Offensive rebounding, however, remained a problem for Mizzou, especially against Texas A&M’s 6-foot-5 junior Khaalia Hillsman. Players like Hillsman have also forced Porter to shoot more outside shots instead of driving.

Mizzou came off with a strong first quarter, a trend in recent games. The team had a 15-0 run to gain a six-point lead. Defense was efficient as well, keeping the Aggies scoreless for at least five minutes.

The second and third quarters remained a back-and-forth affair, but Texas A&M spurred to the front in the fourth with a 13-0 run. The Aggies built a five-point lead as the quarter ended, but fouls and Cunningham’s game-tying reverse-layup forced overtime. From there, Mizzou took the lead and held it for the remainder of the game.

Mizzou’s win over the Aggies is big and keeps Mizzou’s hopes of securing an NCAA tournament berth alive. The game also ties Mizzou’s conference record at 3-3.

“This certainly helps your resume to beat a top-25 team, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “This is one game. It doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t stay true to the process and take care of the next one.”

Next up: Missouri plays a road game against Arkansas on Jan. 23. Tipoff is at 6 p.m.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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