Lindsey Cunningham on season, career finale: 'We went down swinging'
Missouri knew it couldn’t be casual with the ball against Florida State’s pressure and athleticism Sunday during the second round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at Florida State’s Tucker Center.
Turnovers were the cardinal sin the Tigers had to avoid, especially live-ball gaffes that led to easy transition points for the Seminoles.
Insert something here about best-laid plans.
Sixth-seeded Mizzou committed 23 turnovers, which led to 20 points for Florida State.
That hefty advantage paced the Seminoles, who are the No. 3 seed in the Stockton (Calif.) regional, to a 77-55 win and the fifth Sweet Sixteen berth in coach Sue Semrau’s 20 seasons, including three straight.
“Defensively, they’re really good,” MU coach Robin Pingeton said. “They’re quick. They’re athletic. They anticipate well. I thought they did a really nice job on our ball-screening action. … We just never looked fluid on offense.”
The third quarter was particularly unkind to the Tigers (22-11), who committed seven turnovers that led to nine points in the period.
Florida State (27-6) made hay off Mizzou’s mistakes, stretching a five-point halftime lead to a 19-point margin during those 10 minutes.
“It was one of those games we just got sped up,” said MU sophomore forward Cierra Porter, who finished with 12 points and a team-high six rebounds. “I don’t think we were underprepared or they threw anything at us we didn’t expect. Some things didn’t go our way tonight, but I don’t think it was lack of effort.”
The opening half-minute of the fourth quarter proved eventual as official Laura Morris whistled three Tigers — sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham, senior guard Lianna Doty and freshman guard Amber Smith — for fouls during the opening 19 seconds.
“Obviously, it was very frustrating,” Pingeton said, pausing for 6 seconds to gather her thoughts before repeating herself word for word.
That frustration showed when Pingeton wadded up a piece of paper and discarded it toward the team bench as Morris ran by following a Florida State basket.
It also prompted a technical foul, the fourth team foul Morris called on the Tigers in the first 26 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“I can tell you what I didn’t do,” Pingeton said. “I was not outside of my box and I did not cuss, but they felt like when I crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it under the bench it was more about sportsmanship.”
Senior guard Lindsey Cunningham didn’t seem to mind, walking over to slap a hearty high-five with Pingeton as the refs gathered at the scorer’s table.
“Coach P is really passionate, and that’s something I respect about her,” Lindsey Cunningham said.
The foul bonanza came during a 10-0 Florida State run to open the quarter capped by consecutive three-pointers from junior guard Imani Wright and senior guard Brittany Brown.
The Tigers never drew closer than 19 points in the final 8 1/2 minutes despite a strong finishing kick by Sophie Cunningham.
“They’re just a good team and can go on runs,” said Sophie Cunningham, who scored a team-high 17 points. “It’s a solid win for them. Not much else to say about that.”
Senior guard Sierra Michaelis scored 10 points in her final collegiate game, and matched Porter’s six rebounds.
Missouri, which committed 27 fouls and was outshot 22 of 30 versus 8 of 10 at the free-throw line, trailed by five points at halftime despite committing 12 first-half turnovers combined with poor shooting.
The Tigers, who endured a 4:01 first-quarter scoring drought and a 7:12 field-goal drought in the second quarter, shot 9 of 27 overall and 3 of 12 from three-point range in the half.
Mizzou’s resilience kept things close.
After falling behind 11-4, the Tigers closed the first quarter with a 10-1 run powered by Porter’s five points and capped by Michaelis’ three-pointer.
Florida State opened up its largest first-half lead at 29-19 during Mizzou’s iciest shooting stretch, which coincided with Sophie Cunningham’s exile to the bench with two fouls.
Upon returning with 3:49 remaining, Cunningham ended the field-goal drought with a bomb from the right wing during an 8-0 run, but the Seminoles led 32-27 at the break with senior guard Leticia Romero and Wright combining for 17 points.
Junior Shakayla Thomas recorded game-highs with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the win, while Brown added 16 and Romero and Wright finished with 14 apiece.