COLUMBIA, MO- Two evenly matched Tiger teams took the court this evening at Mizzou Arena, hungry for the win, but one team proved that there was only room for one Tiger in the den, and that team, was the Missouri Tigers.
It’s undoubtedly been a record season for standout sophomore Cierra Porter, and with a career-high 27 points, there’s no denying that she was a game-changer tonight. Porter’s contribution, followed by double-digit points from freshman Amber Smith and fifth-year senior Lindsey Cunningham ignited Missouri to a 68-53 win over Auburn.
“This was a good win against a very good team,” said Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton. “Tomorrow's practice is where we’re at now. It’s not about Monday yet, it’s about practice tomorrow,” she added on Missouri’s next step in SEC league play.
Porter’s offensive prowess is not one to be messed with, and the Auburn Tigers found out quickly that the 6’4 sophomore that she is, indeed, a force to be reckoned with. Auburn just couldn’t quite contain her as Porter propelled Missouri through a strong first half with a game-high of 14 points and seven rebounds after just 20 minutes of play.
Porter wasn’t the only driving factor for the Missouri Tigers in the first half, though. True freshman Amber Smith was a spark off of the bench knocking down 11 points of her own to help Missouri end the half up 33-26.
Despite impressive performances by Auburn seniors Katie Frerking and Brandy Montgomery, Missouri’s impressive shooting (58%), play off the boards, 22 rebounds versus Auburn’s 11, and domination in the paint, 22 points versus Auburn’s 10, resulted in Missouri’s hot lead going into the second half.
The Missouri Tigers came out of the gates hot, and a long jumper by Sierra Michaelis to beat the shot clock surged the Tigers ahead 35-26 early on in the second half. A triple from Sophie Cunningham shortly after, her first points of the game, helped Missouri gain another double-digit lead against Auburn who, in turn, went scoreless for nearly five minutes of the third quarter.
A pair of fouls for Jazmine Jones that sent Smith and Lindsey Cunningham to the line one after the other, followed by a foul on Frerking that sent Cunningham back to the line helped the Tigers get ahead by as many as 12 points.
Auburn fought back, and Missouri fought back, and man, did both teams battle it out hard. The end of the third proved choppy with a lot of fouls for both Tiger teams and a lot of stoppage in play. Despite this, however, Missouri entered the fourth quarter united with the goal to win and entered the fourth quarter up by 10 points (47-37).
“It is hard to get rhythm when the calls are stop and go, but we hold up a fist [signaling] to stay united,” said Porter on her team’s ability to maintain composure during the back and forth fouls for both teams.
A deep trey by Lindsey Cunningham, with just shy of nine minutes remaining in the game, gave the Missouri Tigers the push they needed to end the game strong, and most importantly, ahead of their opponent with a comfortable lead.
“We just have to be a better defensive team, and we’ve got to make stops,” said Auburn head coach Terry Williams-Flournoy.
The Missouri Tigers extended their lead to as many as 23 points in the final minutes of the game, and Auburn just couldn’t quite claw their way back, ending the game down by 16 points with a final score of 68-53.
Missouri will continue their home stand and take on Kentucky Monday, Jan. 30; tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. C.T. Auburn will remain on the road to take on rivals Alabama on Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. ET.