Robin Pingeton is a coach, so she was nervous. She cares about routines, and the only thing normal about Monday for her Missouri women’s basketball team was the result: an 84-58 road win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Weather prevented the Tigers from traveling out of Columbia this weekend and delayed this contest a day. Even on Monday, the Tigers’ plane did not land in Arkansas until around 3 p.m., and the game tipped off just a few hours later at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
“I know back in my playing days, I needed to be really, really structured,” Pingeton said to reporters in Arkansas. “But this is a team that doesn’t mind shaking it up a little bit.”
This game was never close. Missouri hit six of its 11 three-pointers in the first quarter, and the Tigers were up 19 points after one period. They never trailed.
Sophie Cunningham led Mizzou with 18 points on four three-pointers to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Jordan Frericks had 15 points and eight rebounds. Lauren Aldridge, Hannah Schuchts and Jordan Chavis all hit a pair of three-pointers.
“This is honestly kind of the team I have this year,” Pingeton said. “They get bored with routine.”
The only bad moment for Missouri in this game was when sophomore starter Amber Smith went down because of a knee injury and had to be carried off the floor. But she returned and played in the second half.
The Tigers shot 51.7 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three to ensure a 20-win season for the third consecutive year. This is the first time Missouri had accomplished that feat since 1984-87.
Missouri (20-5, 8-4) moved up to from No. 15 to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll earlier in the day and remains in position to play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament at Mizzou Arena. Two more ranked teams remain on the Tigers’ schedule: No. 11 Tennessee, which comes to Missouri this weekend, and No. 17 Texas A&M, which hosts Mizzou to close out the Tigers’ regular season.
After losing three straight, all against ranked teams, the Tigers have won three in a row. The victory gave MU a season sweep of the Razorbacks (12-13, 3-9).
The change in schedule made Pingeton concerned about the flow of the Tigers’ offense. But she told her players to treat the game as an exercise in mental toughness.
Missouri didn’t even check into a hotel before this game. And because their coach didn’t want them in the arena for too long before tipoff, the Tigers spent some time walking around town to get fresh air. Then they completed their first blowout victory since Jan. 21, when they last played Arkansas.
“Maybe I need to give them more time off,” Pingeton said.