Missouri celebrated the 15th anniversary of its last victory in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament with a first-round upset of BYU.
Sophie Cunningham scored 20 points and Jordan Frericks added 19, pacing the 10th-seeded Tigers to a 78-69 victory over No. 7 seed BYU on Saturday night at the Frank Erwin Center.
Missouri, 22-9, will face the winner of Saturday night’s Alabama State-Texas game at 8 p.m. Monday in the second-round.
BYU gave Missouri a scare, cutting a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to 66-64 with 2 minutes, 15 seconds to play. The Tigers then regained control with a 9-0 run, including seven points at the free-throw line.
Coach Robin Pingeton said the team’s 16-day layoff proved beneficial. After losing its last three games, including a first-round exit in the SEC Tournament, the Tigers looked rejuvenated.
“We hit a speed bump at the end of the season and to see the way we showed great resiliency bounce back is really exciting,” Pingeton said.
Missouri trailed 11-4 early in the game but rallied behind Frericks, who scored 10 points as the Tigers built a 35-31 halftime lead.
Missouri led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter but BYU guard Lexi Rydalch, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer at 24.3 points per game, kept the Cougars in the game. She scored 15 of her game-high 22 points in the first half.
The Tigers are in the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2005-2006, getting over the hump after three straight appearances in the Women’s NIT, and their height was a problem for BYU. All five of Missouri’s starters are at least 6 feet tall.
BYU guards had trouble from long range, finishing 4 for 17 on three-pointers. The Cougars entered the game ranked 16th in the nation at 37 percent from three-point range.
“In the second half, I really utilized our mismatch in the block,” Cunningham said.
Missouri owned a 36-26 edge in points in the paint and a 21-7 edge in bench points.
“Every game we try to utilize mismatches,” Frericks said. If it works, we go to it over and over.”
Morgan Stock contributed 14 points and Juanita Robinson 11 for Missouri .
Pingeton gave Missouri five days off after that SEC Tournament loss and it seems to have rejuvenated her squad, which was one of the last four at-large teams invited to the NCAA tourney.
The Tigers, who are making their 10th national tournament appearance and are 5-9 overall, hadn’t won an NCAA tourney game since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2001 season with wins against Wisconsin and Georgia.