Tigers roar past Rebels to open up women’s basketball conference play

Missouri now has a nine-game winning streak against Ole Miss.
Missouri coach Robin Pingeton looks to her team after calling a timeout in the fourth quarter of Missouri's 70-48 exhibition win over Missouri Western on Monday, Oct. 30, 2018. Pingeton, who had previous stints at Illinois St. and her alma mater, St. Ambrose, has found success in all of her coaching stops by building relationships with recruits and making an impact in the community.

Women’s basketball in the SEC is not supposed to be a cakewalk. During Missouri's team media day on Wednesday, coach Robin Pingeton and a few players stressed the difficulty of the conference schedule and the need to prepare fully for each game.

That might be hard to believe after watching Missouri’s rout of Ole Miss at Mizzou Arena on Thursday night.

The Tigers (12-3, 1-0 SEC) began the conference season by taking full advantage of one of the league’s bottom-feeders, crushing the visiting Rebels (6-9, 0-1 SEC) 78-55.

It was Missouri who struck first, opening the game with 3-pointers from juniors Jordan Roundtree and Amber Smith.

Roundtree, who had never started for Missouri before last month, was in the starting five for the fourth straight game. Finishing with 10 points, she was one of three Tigers to reach double figures against Ole Miss.

The other two, predictably, were Smith and senior Sophie Cunningham. Mizzou’s premier offensive threats dropped 18 and 14 points, respectively, as the Tigers never gave up the early lead.

After the Rebels closed to within 4 at the end of the first quarter, Missouri exploded in the second period, winning the quarter 21-6. The second half offered little respite for the visitors, who never again threatened the Tigers’ advantage.

In the midst of a rebuild in its first season under coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, Ole Miss found itself dominated in most facets of the game. A 25-point outburst from redshirt senior Crystal Allen wasn’t enough to offset the hosts’ overall control of the contest.

Missouri shot a dominant 66 percent from the field, while the Rebels struggled with 33 percent shooting. The Tigers also sank 60 percent of their 3-point shots, by far their highest rate of the season.

Mizzou’s defense had its way with the Rebels as well, allowing five assists compared to the Tigers’ 21.

Thursday’s matchup marked the second game since the return of Missouri’s Cierra Porter from medical retirement. The senior scored 4 points and grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes on the court, while also picking up three fouls.

It may have been a winning start to SEC play, but coach Robin Pingeton and the Tigers will be aware that it may never get this easy again. Fifteen more regular season games await over the next two months, and most will involve tougher opponents than the struggling Rebels.

One of the biggest tests of the season looms this weekend for Missouri. The Tigers will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to face the No. 10 Tennessee Lady Vols, who picked up a win of their own on Thursday against Auburn. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. CST on Sunday afternoon.

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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