Takeaways from Mizzou women’s basketball’s preseason opener

The Tigers took care of business in their 30-point victory over Central Missouri, but coach Robin Pingeton stressed the team “still has a lot of work to do.”
Hannah Schuchts runs on the basketball court. Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

Missouri women’s basketball kicked off its two-game preseason schedule Tuesday night with a 65-35 win over the Central Missouri Jennies.

The win came on the same day the Tigers were featured in the AP’s preseason rankings at No. 24. This marks the Tigers’ first preseason ranking since 1984 and just the fourth in program history.

The Tigers looked strong and took care of business in the 30-point victory, holding the Jennies to just 17 percent shooting from the field while forcing 23 turnovers.

But the Tigers were certainly not flawless. Turnovers, sloppy transition play and rebounding were all issues for Mizzou throughout the night. After the game, coach Robin Pingeton stressed the team “still has a lot of work to do,” particularly on defense.

“Energy on the defensive side has got to get better,” Pingeton said. “We’ve got to do a better job limiting second-shot opportunities, and our communication has to be better.”

Pingeton remained optimistic and made sure to mention that this is what exhibition games are all about and that this is an exciting time for the team.

Here are some takeaways from the preseason opener:

The starting lineup:

Pingeton’s starting lineup featured four guards: Sophie and Lindsey Cunningham, Amber Smith and Sierra Michaelis. The guards were joined by sophomore forward Cierra Porter.

In the absences of forwards Jordan Frericks (ACL tear) and Kayla McDowell (pulled hamstring), the lineup was undoubtedly going to be smaller. According to Pingeton, however, the small ball lineup isn’t just an experiment, and it won’t be going away anytime soon.

“During the nonconference part of the schedule, I could see us playing a lot of small ball to be honest with you,” Pingeton said.

While the goal is still to have forwards like McDowell back healthy, as well as get Porter and Hannah Schuchts more developed by Southeastern Conference play, Pingeton believes her team can succeed playing small ball throughout if it has to.

“I’ve seen some very successful teams play with five guards in the SEC,” she said.

Pingeton conceded that this strategy would require guards like Sophie Cunningham and Amber Smith to continue playing big within that small ball lineup as they did against Central Missouri.

Cunninghams pick up right where they left off

The name Cunningham seemed to roll off the tongue of Mizzou Arena’s public address announcer all night, as guards Sophie and Lindsey Cunningham combined for 40 points, just under a third of the team total.

Sophie Cunningham came out firing in the first half and headed into the break with 13 points, while Lindsey Cunningham took off in the second, scoring 14 of her 19 points in that half alone.

In the absence of Jordan Frericks, it will be incumbent upon the Cunningham duo to pick up even more of the scoring burden, and from the tip-off on Tuesday, there was no doubt about who the offense was running through.

The Jordan Frericks void

For any Mizzou fans who might have wondered if Jordan Frericks would be missed on the floor, Tuesday night’s contest gave them the answer. One of the few major weaknesses on display for the Tigers was keeping their opponent off the offensive glass.

On a night most Jennies fans would like to forget, Central Missouri was able to rake in 14 offensive rebounds on the undersized Tigers. The Tigers also allowed 39 rebounds to Central Missouri, 8.5 more than the average they allowed opponents last season. Frericks’ size and rebounding ability, among other aspects of her game, will be sorely missed by this team.

Pingeton said the team was “spoiled by her ability in the paint,” and her ACL injury has left a hole in this Mizzou rotation. As coach Pingeton sees it, it’s up to a number of players, not just one, to step up and fill the void left by Fericks.

The Tigers’ next exhibition game is at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 against Truman State.

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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