Tigers upset fourth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks at home, 83-74

Cunningham led the team with 27 points in her first game back from injury.
Sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham, 3, looks to the basket as she makes the winning shot. Cunningham had 26 points against the Gamecocks, including the winning basket.

Coming into Missouri’s Sunday afternoon matchup against the fourth-ranked, defending-national-champion South Carolina Gamecocks, it was uncertain if the Tigers’ leading scorer Sophie Cunningham would see the court.

Cunningham, who injured her knee in Thursday’s loss to LSU, was listed as day-to-day and no decision on her status had been announced until starting lineups were released for Sunday’s game.

Not only did Cunningham suit up for the Tigers, but with 2:55 left in the final quarter of play, she sunk two free throws on a second technical foul from South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, giving the Tigers an 11-point lead and solidifying their eventual 83-74 upset of No. 4 South Carolina. The game marked the second consecutive season the Tigers upset the Gamecocks.

Cunningham led all scorers with 27 points, but she also grabbed six rebounds and had seven assists. Sophomore Amber Smith scored 20 points and also had 12 rebounds. Smith and Cunningham were two of three Tigers in double figures, as Cierra Porter scored 11 points.

Efficiency was key for the Tiger offense in Sunday’s game. As a team, the Tigers shot 56 percent on field goals, were 62 percent from the 3-point line and shot 75 percent at the free-throw line.

While offensive efficiency was an important part of Mizzou’s play, the Tigers shut down South Carolina defensively, especially in the first half. The Gamecocks shot 36 percent from the field through the first half and were 20 percent from beyond the arc as well. A usually large part of the Gamecocks’ scoring attack that was nonexistent throughout was senior forward A’ja Wilson. Wilson, who averages 24.6 points per game — the third best in the nation — was held to eight points and got into foul trouble early and often, collecting two fouls in the first half and fouling out with three minutes left in the final quarter of play.

Staley found herself in foul trouble as well, earning two technicals while arguing calls in the second half, which led to her ejection from the game at the 2:55 mark in the final quarter.

Mizzou’s next game will be against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. CT.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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