Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton on NCAA Tournament win over Drake
Sophie Cunningham will have one more chance to get Missouri to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
After getting fouled shooting a three-pointer with less than a second to play in overtime, Jordan Roundtree made one of three free throws, giving No. 7 seed Missouri a 77-76 overtime victory Friday over 10th-seeded Drake in a Greensboro Regional first-round game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Cunningham and Cierra Porter had to watch the final moments from the bench after fouling out. Cunningham led all scorers with 21 points and Porter had 18 as MU had four players in double figures.
“Stressful. Very stressful,” Cunningham said. “But I think our team stepped up. I mean, we are two very key players, but I mean, they stepped up.”
The Tigers (24-10) will play No. 2 seed Iowa (27-6) in the second round Sunday at a time to be determined.
Becca Hittner, who led Drake with 19 points and was one of four Bulldogs in double figures, had a wide-open look with 0.9 seconds left to win the game, but her three rimmed out.
“I’m anxious to go back and look,” Mizzou coach Robin Pingeton said of the final play. “I’m surprised she got so open, though. That was a really good look and my heart stopped for a few seconds because I thought it looked good.”
Drake (27-7) shot 12 of 26 from three and made its first three shots from long range. With Cunningham and Porter in early foul trouble, Missouri got baskets from its supporting cast, including Amber Smith, who scored seven of her 11 points to tie the score at 12-12 late in the first quarter.
Smith was part of a 14-2 Missouri run that put the Tigers up 21-14 towards the end of the first quarter. In addition to Smith, senior guard Lauren Aldridge, who finished with 12 points, hit a pair of threes during the run. Pingeton later put Porter and Cunningham back in the game despite each having two fouls.
The Bulldogs tied the score late in the first half behind Sara Rhine, an Eldon native who gave MU trouble in the paint, especially during the stretches that Porter was on the bench. She finished with 18 points.
Missouri went into halftime up 31-30 after Roundtree beat the buzzer on a layup but Rhine continued to be an issue for MU in the third quarter. The Bulldogs picked up the tempo and shot 56 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three in the third.
Cunningham picked up her third foul with 2:51 left in the third after getting her arm tangled with a defender, and had Pingeton and Cunningham pleading with the officials over the call. Roundtree ended the quarter with her second buzzer-beating layup, sending MU into the fourth trailing 54-52.
“I saw a hole and that’s kind of what our offense is,” Roundtree said. “We went into this game knowing there was going to be holes in their zone. Instead of settling for the three, if I see a gap I feel confident to take them.”
Drake had a chance to win with 26 seconds left in the fourth and the score tied at 64-64 after a foul on Cunningham, but Porter stopped Rhine at the rim, giving MU the ball. Jordan Chavis’ last-second heave was to the right of the rim, sending the game into overtime.
The Bulldogs traded a pair of threes with MU to open overtime before Porter fouled out with 2:24 left. Cunningham helped give MU a two-point lead after finding Smith for a fast-break layup. But Hittner immediately hit a three with 1:38 left.
Smith’s jump shot gave Mizzou a 76-74 lead with 22 seconds left but then Cunningham fouled out with 15.9 seconds left and Drake made two free throws, tying the score at 76-76. Smith’s basket was just her second since the first quarter.
With 15 seconds left in overtime, Pingeton drew up a high-low play for Smith to try and draw contact with Cunningham and Porter both out of the game. Drake set its zone up perfectly to deny Smith the ball, leaving Roundtree to improvise and heave up a three. Hittner fouled Roundtree on the shot, giving her three chances to give MU the lead. She converted on her second attempt.
“I think the biggest thing was we were all just saying we wanted to be the aggressors, attack, get something going to the rim,” Pingeton said of the discussion in the huddle before the Tigers’ last shot. “We were trying to get inside to Amber. ... It didn’t develop the way that we had hoped that it would, but yeah, the goal was to go inside to Amber.”
Roundtree’s misses were the first of the game for MU, as the Tigers shot 88 percent from the charity stripe. Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk thought MU’s free-throw shooting was the difference in the game.
“Those hurt when they end on the free-throw line,” Baranczyk said. “Those games hurt.”
Cunningham and Porter became the first Missouri women’s players to win three NCAA Tournament games. Missouri went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in their first two years with the program.
The Tigers now turn their attention to Iowa, after the Hawkeyes defeated 15th-seeded Mercer 66-61 on Friday afternoon. Pingeton will face off against her former college coach at St. Ambrose, Lisa Bluder, who coached her from 1986-90.