The #23 Missouri women’s basketball team was 13-0, the best start in program history.
The Missouri women’s basketball lost for the first time this season, dropping a tight match to the Tennessee Volunteers 71-55. Despite going up against one of women’s basketball’s traditional powerhouses, the Tigers gave the Lady Volunteers their best shot; while Missouri never led in the contest, the Tigers did not truly fall away until late in the fourth quarter. The Volunteers’ largest lead, 19 points, occurred with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
The Tigers were stifled by the Volunteers’ hard press, which had a profound effect on the Cunningham sisters. The pair combined for only 12 points; younger sister Sophie scored eight, but she would foul out late in the fourth quarter. The eight point performance is uncharacteristically poor for the three-time SEC Freshman of the Week. Tonight’s game was the fourth time this season that Sophie has scored less than 10 points.
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The poor outing for the Cunninghams left the job of carrying the team to players like Sierra Michaelis and Jordan Frericks. Both scored in the double digits, and Frericks made five of her seven free throws. Other Tigers did not perform so well. Michaelis and Frericks were the only two Tigers to score more than 10 points, and aside from Sophie Cunningham, no other Missouri player scored more than five points.
Tennessee’s hard press also took away one of Missouri’s bread-and-butter tactics: rebounding. Missouri was only able to muster 40 total rebounds, a far cry from the season-high of 53 against Missouri State. The Tigers were also poor from beyond the arc; Missouri only made two threes the entire game out of 21 attempts, and players that live and die by the three, such as Sierra Michaelis, were not dropping it from beyond the arc.
Frankly, the Tigers did not play well tonight, and the only reason the Tigers were within seven at the half was Tennessee’s shortcomings; the Volunteers went 0-for-8 to end the half. Outside of that stretch, it was Missouri who were cold. The Tigers endured bucketless streaks of four or more shots on five separate occasions, and Missouri only shot 32.8 percent from the floor. Perhaps the sliver lining to this is that it took Tennessee to take this team down. Not many teams are good as Tennessee, but that Tennessee was able to defend the Tigers relatively easily should serve as a point of contention going forward.