Women’s basketball offense explodes as the Tigers smash Arkansas 67-56

Missouri’s great offensive night was highlighted by Lindsey Cunningham’s career-high 21 points.
Sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham, 3, drives past an Arkansas defender to the basket. Cunningham had 19 points and one block in her 38 minutes of play.

After dropping two straight road Southeastern Conference games, Missouri (17-9, 7-5) returned to Mizzou Arena in desperate need of a win over Arkansas (13-12, 2-10). The Tigers responded by crushing the Razorbacks 67-56 behind impressive shooting performances from Lindsey and Sophie Cunningham. As a team, the Tigers shot 44.2 percent from the field and 59.1 percent from three.

“Those two Cunningham kids are really good players,” Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes said. “They play hard. They play the game with a lot of competitive fire, juice about them and confidence. [Lindsey Cunningham] is a really solid player, and I personally enjoy competing against them.”

Senior Lindsey Cunningham scored a career-high 21 points, going 5-5 from deep and adding six rebounds.

“I think you guys know me by now,” she said. “I don’t go out there to get this many points, this many rebounds. Whatever, I just got out there and play, and do what my team needs of me. They were hitting me tonight when I was open, and luckily they were able to fall.”

Missouri’s leading scorer sophomore Sophie Cunningham chipped in 19 points, seven boards and five assists. She also had things working from deep, hitting four 3-pointers. Freshman Amber Smith had a huge game off the bench. Smith had her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Eight of those boards came in the second half.

“Shots will fall, shots come easily,” Smith said. “But my biggest thing is rebounding. Coach always says go get us extra shots or don’t be hesitant be relentless to the boards. I think I fulfilled that tonight.”

Three minutes into the game, the Tigers already had three turnovers and were down 6-3. Lindsey Cunningham’s two early threes helped turn the tide in Mizzou’s favor. Soon after, Sophie Cunningham and Sierra Michaelis joined the 3-pointer barrage, each hitting one. With 2:56 left in the first, Missouri was 5-5 from deep and leading 17-16.

The Tigers finished the first quarter up 20-16, holding the Razorbacks without a point in the final 3:38 and to 0-5 in their last five field goal attempts.

The Tigers started right where they left off as Smith drained a three to begin the second quarter, followed by another triple from Sophie and Lindsey Cunningham to put Missouri up 29-19 with six minutes left in the half.

The Tigers ended the second quarter on a 8-0 run and led Arkansas 41-25 at the half. The Tigers shot 76.9 percent from three, draining 10 triples in the first half. Sophie Cunningham led all scorers with 11 points and went 3-4 from three.

The second half started on a scary note when Cierra Porter took a hard fall while chasing down a loose ball and afterwards walked straight to the locker room. She would return to the bench later in the quarter.

In the third, Arkansas outscored Missouri 13-11 in the period until Lindsey Cunningham drilled her fifth three of the game, a career high. This put Mizzou up 55-38 heading into the fourth.

Even though the fourth quarter began with a 5-0 Arkansas run, Mizzou fans could take an exhale of relief; Porter returned to the game with 8:07 left.

“[Cierra Porter] hit her head pretty good,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said. “...they wanted to evaluate and make sure there weren’t concussion-like symptoms … I asked her if she was OK. She wanted back in, [and] the doctors had cleared her. So we went ahead and subbed her back in.”

The Tigers were held scoreless in the first 4:45 of the fourth quarter. Arkansas outscored Mizzou 18-8 in the fourth and was down 63-56 with 2:28 left, giving the appearance of a close game. Despite only winning by 11, Missouri comfortably rolled to a 67-56 victory.

Next, the Tigers will take on Florida on Feb. 16 in Gainesville. They will then return to Mizzou Arena on Feb. 19 for the Play4Kay Pink-Out Game against No. 6 South Carolina.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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