Tigers play as one to down the Illini, earn Braggin’ Rights

The Tigers had eight different players score in their win over the Illini.
Designed by Corey Hadfield

CHAMPAIGN, Il.- The Missouri Tigers (10-3, 0-0) faced off with the Illinois Fighting Illini (8-3, 0-0) on Friday afternoon for the annual Braggin’ Rights game. Although the Illini held an 8-4 all-time series lead heading into this year's game, Missouri won last season’s contest 72-55.

Missouri extended its bragging rights privileges with a 67-45 win on Friday, Dec. 21. The Tigers have yet to lose a true road game this year, and it was their second power-5 conference win. The first win came at West Virginia on Dec. 6.

“Being on the road has been pretty good for us this year,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “I thought our players really responded well, especially after halftime.”

It was a close, hard fought contest in the first half, as no team led by more than 6 points before the intermission. Missouri went into the break with a 28-27 lead. In the first half, the Missouri offense looked stagnant with minimal movement.

“There wasn’t purposeful movement,” Pingeton said. “You have to have that when you run a motion offense.”

Freshman Akira Levy helped the Tigers gain a halftime advantage with a layup just before the halftime buzzer went off. It was that shot that propelled Levy and the Tigers into a second half run.

“This whole game I was focused on being a great teammate,” Levy said. “Having a positive energy really helped me and my team today.”

After the break, the Tigers came out scoring in bunches. Missouri used a 17-0 run in the third to build its lead to 20 at the end of three quarters. The Tigers saw that lead grow to as much as 28 in the fourth quarter, as their third quarter outburst proved to be enough to seal the victory.

It was a true team effort for Missouri, as it saw eight different members score, three of them with double digit stat lines. Junior Amber Smith lead the Tigers with 16 points, followed by Levy with 14 and redshirt senior Lauren Aldridge with 11.

“It was a great team effort,” Pingeton said. “A really good job sharing the ball and getting people open shots.”

Pingeton was looking for her Tigers to get back to a “gritty” style of play after their last game. That showed Friday afternoon, as Missouri won the rebounding battle 35-26 as well as scoring 17 points off of 16 Illini turnovers.

“Honestly, we’ve been really really on them this week in practice,” Pingeton said. “As an athlete, there’s always another level to take it to and they really responded well in practice.”

The Tigers had to look more like a team unit, especially in the third quarter, in order to pick up struggling senior Sophie Cunningham. She only managed 9 points and didn’t play nearly the entirety of the second quarter due to foul trouble.

With finals over, Missouri gets 3-4 weeks to solely focus on basketball and fine tune the problems it has found in the early stages of this season.

“Obviously we are students first,” Smith said. “But this break allows us to be all about basketball and to just be an athlete for a while.”

Missouri will enjoy a nine day break from the court as well. The Tigers return home for the last game before Southeastern Conference play with a game against Arkansas State. Tip-off is set for Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. CST.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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