One year ago, the Missouri women’s basketball team’s Senior Night celebration turned sour with a shocking loss against Vanderbilt.
Tigers sophomore sensation Sophie Cunningham and a trio of teammates who suited up Thursday at Mizzou Arena for the final time made certain history would not repeat itself.
Cunningham went on a personal 32-point blitzkrieg, pacing a 100-65 obliteration of Mississippi and keeping Mizzou on track for a double-bye in next week’s SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“All the seniors have gone through so much with this program,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t send our seniors out like they should have been last season. Coach (Robin Pingeton) mentioned that and, as a whole, we wanted to send them out on the right note.”
Cunningham — who went 11 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 7 from three-point range, and made all five free throws in only 29 minutes — got plenty of help from senior guard and older sister Lindsey Cunningham, who tied season- and career-highs with five three-pointers and 21 points.
Fellow senior guard Sierra Michaelis added 12 points with team-highs of eight rebounds and eight assists — a career-high — in the Tigers’ most-lopsided conference win since a winning by 40 on Jan. 19, 1985, versus Iowa State.
Missouri (20-9, 10-5 SEC) started the game 13 of 19 from the field in roaring to a 35-13 lead early in the second quarter.
“Our ball movement and our spacing was outstanding …,” Pingeton said. “Several times, there were opportunities to take good shots for our team and they kept making that one extra pass for a great shot.”
The Tigers’ lead reached as many as 26 points en route to a 50-26 halftime advantage.
By that point, the only remaining drama was if Mizzou would tally 100 points for the first time since Dec. 8, 2013, against Bradley.
Freshman guard Jordan Chavis kept the Tigers on pace, beating the buzzer with a 45-foot heave from just inside half-court to end the third quarter.
“She probably (practices that shot) a little bit,” Pingeton said. “I love the fire in her belly. Jordan maybe didn’t have one of her better games tonight, but she was a warrior and it was fun to see her hit that shot.”
Mizzou, which led 75-43 after three quarters, hit the century mark with 41.6 seconds left to roars of approval from the announced crowd of 5,173.
“That was a really special environment on a Thursday night … and I really appreciate them coming out and supporting our entire team,” Pingeton said.
The 100-point game marked the first time since Feb. 25, 1989 — a 104-91 win at Oklahoma — the Tigers scored that many points in a conference game and the first time in an SEC matchup.
Chavis got Mizzou to the magical number with a free throw, putting the icing on the program’s most-dominant win since joining the Southeastern Conference.
Asked if the bench was as excited as the fans to reach 100 points, Sophie Cunningham said, “Of course. I’ve never scored 100 points in my whole career, so for a freshman to get it … was pretty cool.”
Mississippi (16-12, 5-10 SEC) missed 10 straight shots during one stretch snapping the first and second quarters during a 5-of-20 start from the field.
The Rebels only shot 35 percent for the game, committed 32 fouls, were out-rebounded 36-28 and managed only two second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.
The Tigers shot 30 of 50 overall, a robust 60 percent, with a season-high 14 three-pointers.
Mizzou shot 60.9 percent from long range and also went a sizzling 26 of 31 at the free-throw line, finishing with 21 turnovers against 16 turnovers.
The Tigers’ third senior, Lianna Doty, only scored six, but her four assists moved her into second place on the program’s career list with 472 all-time dimes. She’s 17 behind Kerensa Barr for the record (489).
Mizzou’s senior signed autographs for fans after the game and were not made available for interviews in time for deadline.