Missouri has been able to check off a few items that haven’t been done in some time by the women’s basketball program.
The Tigers started their season at 13-0 for the first time, which tied the program’s longest winning streak, a run that had not been duplicated for 31 seasons. They have their first 20-win campaign in 10 seasons.
Now, Missouri just needs an SEC women’s basketball tournament victory to tick off another high-priority item. The Tigers, who enter the tournament as an eighth seed, will get that chance at 11 a.m. Thursday when they meet fellow Tigers in ninth-seed Auburn at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on the event’s second day.
Missouri, 21-8 and 8-8, has been one-and-done through its first three seasons at the SEC tournament. The team hasn’t won a conference postseason game since 2012, when Missouri was a member of the Big 12. The team hasn’t won a league tournament since taking the 1994 Big Eight title.
That’s quite a bit of history to check off. But 6-foot-1 guard Sophie Cunningham, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, wanted a chance to elevate the program, and the first step in doing that is notching a win against Auburn, 18-11, 8-8, which fell 69-55 to Missouri at home less than two weeks ago.
“I knew I wanted to get Mizzou on the map,” said Cunningham, who averages 13.8 points a game. “Our veterans have done a great job of helping me with that. I think we have a tremendous team; there are some games I wish we could get back. But this season, there are a lot of firsts for our program in a long time.”
It’s obvious which games Cunningham would like back. Missouri was in line for a bye straight through to the tournament quarterfinals entering its past two games, but the Tigers fell at Kentucky and then lost at home on Senior Day to Vanderbilt.
The defeat, on Sunday, pushed Missouri out of the top 25 and made time for a little reflection.
“We hit a speedbump against Vanderbilt that took us a little time to get over, but resiliency has been our trademark,” coach Robin Pingeton said. “It was really hard.
“We just evaluated that a little bit and talked through it, and we’re looking forward to moving on. It’s a journey. There are some tough lessons to learn from it.”
SEC women’s basketball tournament
At Jacksonville, Fla.; all times Central
Wednesday’s first round
(13) LSU 58, (12) Alabama 49
(11) Vanderbilt 74, (14) Mississippi 59
Thursday’s second round
(9) Auburn vs. (8) Missouri, 11 a.m. (SEC Network)
(13) LSU vs. (5) Kentucky, 1:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
(10) Arkansas vs. (7) Tennessee, 5 p.m. (SEC Network)
(11) Vanderbilt vs. (6) Georgia 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Auburn-Missouri winner vs. (1) South Carolina, TBA
LSU-Kentucky winner vs. (4) Florida, TBA
Arkansas-Tennesse winner vs. (2) Texas A&M, TBA
Vanderbilt-Georgia winner vs. (3) Mississippi State, TBA
Quarterfinal winners, TBA
Semifinal winners, TBA