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WNIT: Tigers escape Wildcats by a claw

There was only room for one cat in the Mizzou arena tonight, and that cat, was the Missouri Tiger. After a mostly close back and forth game, the Tigers were able to hold off the Wildcats. The Tigers will advance in the preseason WNIT.  

Sophie Cunningham Tim Nwachukwu/Mizzou Athletics

COLUMBIA, MO — The rustling of the Missouri cheerleaders and dancer’s pom-poms was a little louder than usual tonight as fans, students, and players alike excitedly piled into the arena for the Tigers first regular season game against the Abilene Christian Wildcats.

Led by sophomore Sophie Cunningham in points, 13, sophomore Cierra Porter in rebounds, 12, a career-high, and senior Lianna Doty in assists, three, along with four Tigers racking up double-digit point totals, and 22 turnovers, the Tigers 52-46 win over Abilene Christian, will advance them to the next round of the preseason WNIT. Overall, the win was a collective effort by the team.

“I was telling myself this game’s for Bri and it motivated me and will throughout the season,” said Porter about her record performance tonight and her drive following her sister, junior forward, Bri’s ACL injury this season.

At the first whistle, both teams came out fast and vigorous, but Missouri and especially senior guard Sierra Michaelis, however, struggled to get points up on the board and ended the first period with a one-point deficit.

The Missouri defense remained solid, making up for the shortcomings on offense, only allowing five second-quarter points on 2-of-19 shooting. Despite this, and Missouri’s first lead of the match grabbed by Cunningham in the fifth minute, the Tigers couldn’t quite surpass the Wildcats in points and ended the half behind 25-21.

After struggling to soundly connect their quick, fluid passes to a get that highly-coveted swish in the basket in the first half on offense, Missouri found themselves in hot water again going 0-10 in field goals and 0-6 in three-pointers, scoring only six points that were all from the free throw line in the third period.

Missouri turned it on and around in the fourth period, capitalizing on crucial mistakes made by the Wildcats and getting a consistent flow of points up on the board. Michaelis, who struggled in the first half, found her stride, scoring all 11 of her game points during the fourth, which helped the Tigers secure their most substantial lead all game.

“We said night in night out we want to hang our hat on being really tough really gritty really sticking together when adversity strikes and those are the things I’m really proud of. You’re not going to shoot it perfect every night, but we played hard,” said coach Pingeton on the Tiger’s difficulty scoring and the team's goal going into the match.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats, who demonstrated their prowess and tenacity in the first three-quarters, fell victim to fatigue, and struggled to keep up with the Tigers, failing to score any points for nearly four minutes of the period.

“I feel like fatigue hurt us down the stretch, and we were pretty careless with the ball. Even late in the game when you’re a little fatigued you’ve got to play smart, “ said Coach Goodenough on the Wildcats collapse in the fourth.

Fatigue and sloppy play, coupled with Abilene Christian’s inability to score for nearly four minutes of the fourth quarter, resulted in the Tigers winning, 52-46.

The Tigers will play the winner of Saturday’s Nebraska versus UTRGV in the preseason WNIT at a time to be determined.