It felt like a banquet, Thursday’s Senior Night at Mizzou Arena.
Flowers were handed out, smiles graced many faces among the 5,173 folks who showed up for the 100-65 shellacking against Ole Miss, and the shots fell just like the team wanted. Not to mention, each senior on the class that’s won 78 games — the most since Missouri’s 1987-88’s senior class — grabbed a headline.
But even then, coach Robin Pingeton was set on avoiding the teary-eyed emotions that were talked about ad nauseum the last 48 hours.
“Those emotions are something that we’ve talked a lot about,” Pingeton said. “I don’t know if we were talking about it to help each other process it and get through it, but it was a special group and we are all pretty close.”
Sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham, who scored a game-high 32 points, playing spectator to her sister Lindsey’s senior night was no easy task.
“I almost broke, but I didn’t,” Sophie Cunningham said. “I’ve been keeping strong.”
Of the headlines, senior point guard Lianna Doty moved to second on Mizzou’s all-time assists list with 472 by passing Amy Fordham with four dishes on the night.
Senior shooting guard Sierra Michaelis assisted on eight baskets, which was a career-high.
And Lindsey, the Columbia native who grabbed the microphone following the win and thanked the crowd for helping her achieve her dream, tied a career high with 21 points and five three-pointers.
“(These are) three players that have impacted our program greatly, they’ve done things the right way and they’ve helped us talk about core values and standards and holding themselves accountable, but also, helping (hold) our entire team accountable,” Pingeton said postgame. “They just deserved it. They work hard.”
Working hard on spacing and ball movement was the name of the game Thursday night. Of Missouri’s 30 shots made in the first half, 13 were assisted on — including one with 2 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
It was a sign on Thursday night — a sign of the past and a sign of what’s to come — for the Cunningham sisters.
Sophie found Lindsey in the left corner, who drilled a three-pointer. Running back on defense, Sophie beamed and threw her arm up.
How high does this one rank for the sisters?
“They all rank high because a lot of siblings don’t get this opportunity at this high a level in front of so many fans as well,” Sophie said. “It sucks (that this was her last home game) because this place was just so special to our family. But there’s more games down the road, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
With a game at Alabama on Sunday and the postseason tournaments after that, Pingeton admitted Thursday night was fun.
Still, she prefers to save the teary eyes for the real banquet.
“There’s a time and place for that and that’ll be at the banquet,” Pingeton said, “but until then, we have to keep our heads straight and keep our blinders on and take care of it one day at a time.”