The Maneater

Tigers shut down in all facets, upset 80-70 by No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast in round of 64

FGCU’s undersized roster outscored the Tigers in the paint and dominated everywhere

Amber Smith dribbles around a Mississippi State defender to get the ball to the paint.

Coming into a tournament matchup as the higher seed always lends a feeling of advantage, but for the No. 5 Missouri women’s basketball team in its Saturday matchup against No. 12 seed Florida Gulf Coast, that didn’t seem to be the case.

The Eagles had Missouri’s number early and often, drawing fouls left and right and scoring from a high percentage beyond the arc. This led to an upset bid, as FGCU beat Missouri 80-70 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

It was night and day in terms of FGCU and Missouri’s offensive production.

Four players finished in double figures for the Eagles and the Eagle bench contributed 38 points in the upset bid. China Dow came off the bench to lead FGCU in scoring with 21 points. The team also finished shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

For a team that doesn’t have a player over 6 feet tall, the Eagles managed to find a lot of high-percentage looks and make them count, scoring 36 points in the paint. It was eight more points than the Tigers had down low.

Missouri’s offense was one-dimensional, and that one dimension was junior forward Sophie Cunningham. She finished with 35 — half of Missouri’s point total. The rest of Missouri’s starters combined for just 21 points and the bench contributed 14 points. Cunningham was the only Tiger to finish in double figures.

The Tigers also didn’t take care of the ball, especially in the early stages. Missouri finished with 16 turnovers, 10 of which came in the first half. FGCU took advantage, scoring 20 points off Missouri turnovers.

It was a game that saw fouls called frequently throughout. By the end of the first half, Missouri had five players, including three starters, with at least two fouls. The Tigers finished the game without starters Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter. Frericks fouled out of her final game with Missouri with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter, and Porter fouled out with 4:51 left to play.

The Eagles also got into foul trouble of their own and played much of the second half with starters Rosemarie Julien and Erica Nelson on the bench.

With the loss, Missouri finishes the season with a 24-8 record and finishes 1-2 in tournament play.

_Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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