The Maneater

Women’s basketball topples McKendree in final tuneup before opener

The Tigers took down McKendree 80-30 behind 13 points from junior Sophie Cunningham.

Sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham, 3, drives past an Arkansas defender to the basket in 2017. Maneater File Photo

Senior Jordan Frericks grabbed a rebound, turned and threw an outlet pass the length of the court, hitting junior Sophie Cunningham in stride for a breakaway layup with 7:50 left in the second quarter.

Suddenly, the duo was back together.

Frericks and Cunningham led the Tigers to an 80-30 win over McKendree University in Missouri’s second and final exhibition game Monday night.

In the 2015-16 season, Cunningham and Frericks led the Tigers to their first NCAA tournament berth in a decade and their first NCAA tournament win since 2001. Cunningham led the team in scoring and was the SEC Freshman of the Year while Frericks was the team’s leading rebounder and was named second-team All-SEC.

Frericks missed all of last season with a torn ACL and Cunningham was only able to play six minutes in the Tigers’ first exhibition game before she was forced out with a wrist injury.

Now, Cunningham is happy for Frericks to be back on the court.

“It's amazing,” Cunningham said after the exhibition. “Not just her play on the basketball court, but her leadership. Everyone looks up to Jordan. And she's just a strong body inside. She's a beast and everyone in the country knows it. It's nice to have our little duo back together."

Cunningham scored a game-high 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 15 minutes, while Frericks put together a solid two-way performance with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists to go with four steals and two blocks in 17 minutes.

Cunningham, who led the Tigers in scoring last season, had her right hand and wrist wrapped up for the game after exiting the Tigers’ game against Southwest Baptist with a wrist injury.

The junior guard looked unfazed, as she was able to crash the offensive glass a couple times for the Tigers and hit a three from the wing.

Cunningham said her hand felt fine and that she’s ready to go for the regular season.

“I’m good,” Cunningham said. “[The hand] is very healthy. I’m very competitive, so if there’s a game, I’m gonna try to go. I have to be smart in these kind of situations, but I knew I’d be fine.”

Frericks has also put her knee injury behind her.

“[My knee] isn’t something I think about during the game,” Frericks said. “It was my goal to get to that point. I’ve had no pain throughout my journey. So far, I feel strong and confident.”

The key factor for the Tigers was defensive pressure. With Frericks playing at the point of Missouri’s full-court press, the Tigers were able to force six turnovers in the first quarter. Missouri ended the quarter on a 22-2 run en route to a 31-7 lead.

Overall, head coach Robin Pingeton was pleased with the Tigers’ defensive improvement as Missouri forced 22 McKendree turnovers and converted those turnovers into 34 points.

“I saw a greater sense of urgency on the defensive end today,” Pingeton said. “I thought our effort was much better. I thought our ball pressure was better.”

In the second half, redshirt senior Kayla Michael led the way for the Tigers. Michael scored eight of her 10 points in the second half to go along with six rebounds, three assists and a 2-for-5 performance from behind the arc.

Next up, the Tigers will open the regular season in Iowa City, Iowa, where they will take on Western Kentucky in the Hawkeye Challenge on Nov. 10.

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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