Tigers take step back with win over UMKC

Sophie Cunningham and Amber Smith both had great nights, but overall the Tigers had an inconsistent offensive showing against UMKC.
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.

Mizzou Arena held its breath. Sophie Cunningham was hobbling off the court on an injured ankle early in the first quarter. Questions of if the season were over popped in people’s heads. Then, just as quickly as she hobbled off, Cunningham checked into the game with a brace on her ankle.

The brace didn’t seem to slow her down as she dropped 24 points on 8-14 shooting with 6 rebounds. Her 24 points were more than her last two totals combined, as she only scored 4 points against West Virginia and 8 points against Duke.

Her and junior Amber Smith lead the way for the Tigers (7-2, 0-0), as they beat UMKC (2-6, 0-0) by the final of 66-59. While it wasn’t an emphatic win, it was a game that saw the two best Tigers – Cunningham and Smith – scoring double figures.

Even with the win, there were doubts as to the consistency of the Tiger offense. In the second quarter, Missouri went on an 8-0 run, forcing a Kangaroo timeout. After the timeout, UMKC went on a 12-2 run to pull within two heading into halftime.

After a big win against West Virginia, many thought that the Tigers would pounce on their I-70 opponent and come out with a lopsided victory. Coach Robin Pingeton pointed to Missouri’s back-and-forth play coming from the Tigers’ mentality.

“You have to prepare for every game the same way,” Pingeton said. “You have to respect everyone you play, but fear nobody. The sense of urgency that champions have, we didn’t have tonight.”

At times, the Tiger offense looked unstoppable, yet in many cases, great possessions quickly turned into turnovers. Missouri turned the ball over 17 times against a team that didn’t apply a full court press throughout the night.

“That absolutely cannot happen,” Pingeton said.

Cunningham had the offensive night the team had been looking for. Her offensive outburst could’ve been because she stayed out of foul trouble early. Even though she did foul out of the contest, she did not pick up her third foul until the third quarter.

“Not having fouls just helps me to simply stay in the game,” said Cunningham. “I’m working on it [foul trouble] but I have to continue to make adjustments.”

Alongside the Cunningham scoring outburst, Smith had her second double-double in as many games, and her fifth of the season. She tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds.

“In the past, when my offense doesn’t go right, I became soft on the defensive end,” Smith said. “It’s just letting my defense lead into my offense.”

The Tigers finally got Smith and Cunningham playing in a productive manner on the same night. However, the usual suspects that step up in their absence went back to their quiet ways of playing. No other Tiger had more than 8 points.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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