COLUMBIA, MO – Happy. Anxious. Excited. Nervous. Disappointed. These emotions were pulsing through the Mizzou Arena today as a fourth quarter roller coaster of emotion had Missouri fans jumping out of their seats one second, then biting their nails the next. Finally, stunned to silence after Alabama was able to sneak away with the win with a buzzer beater three in the final possession of the game.
“Losing at home it’s just personal…we hate to disappoint our fans, and that makes it cut even deeper. But to get where you want to get you’ve got to take care of your home games,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton on her squad's tough loss.
It wasn’t all luck for the Tide, however. With 21-second chance points, compared to the Tigers’ mere six, and 19 offensive rebounds, compared to Missouri’s five, gave them the foundation they needed to capitalize on their final possession and get the win.
Sophie Cunningham led the Tigers out of the gate hot with 15 points, 6-of-10 in field goals, in the first half alone. While Missouri took off, Alabama struggled to find the basket, going 3-of-16 in field goal attempts, despite out-rebounding the Tigers 14-9 in the first period.
However, a lack of scoring from other Missouri members came back to hurt the Tigers in the final minutes of the first half, and Sophie Cunningham couldn’t continue carrying the team — no matter how hard she tried.
Missouri went 0-of-7 in field goals for more than five minutes before intermission. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide turned the tables, going on a strong 7-0 run and eventually making the game 21 all going into the second half with a clutch trey from junior guard, Hannah Cook in the final minute of the period.
A revived Tiger squad stepped onto the court in the third stanza with Sophie Cunningham’s hot streak continuing with a deep triple to open up the period. This, followed by a layup from Cierra Porter not more than a minute later, gave Missouri back their lead.
And the Tigers extended that lead to as many as seven points in the first four minutes of the period, but it wasn’t enough to keep Alabama from creeping in on Missouri, yet again, going to show them that no lead is a comfortable one against the Tide.
Back-to-back triples by Quanetria Bolton propelled Alabama to a 33-28 lead against the Tigers in the final minutes of the third period. Missouri fought to regain the lead, but the Crimson Tide was red hot, and the Tigers couldn’t quite claw back ahead, entering the final quarter down, 39-35.
Missouri came out with a vengeance in the fourth, with back-to-back three’s by both Jordan Chavis, tallying her first points of the game, and Lindsey Cunningham tying the game at 41 all.
Both teams battled hard back and forth, hungry for the win, and staying within a mere one or two points of one another for the rest of the contest. With the game tied up at 54 all with less than 1:30 remaining, Sierra Michaelis did the unexpected after a nearly scoreless game.
The senior superstar unleashed her secret weapon from beyond the arc, knocking down a three to not only beat the shot clock, but also give Missouri the lead, 57-54 with only 1:03 on the clock.
“I don’t think we thought that we were going to win off of that [Michaelis’ three-pointer] and we knew it was just time to play defense,” said Sophie Cunningham on the intense final minute of the game.
Alabama didn’t back down, though, and a layup by Bolton made it a one-point game with a mere 30 seconds remaining. After a foul on the Tide had sent Porter to the line, where she went 1-of-2, all that Alabama needed to do in order to win the game was hit a miraculous three-pointer.
With only 2.5 seconds remaining and you could hear a pin drop in the Mizzou Arena, as fans stood in silence waiting to see if the Tide would steal the game or not. A pass to Bolton and a last chance from beyond the arc indeed did find the basket.
In the blink of an eye, Alabama snuck away with a 59-58 victory. Missouri fans stood stunned, as the Tide walked away, by the skin of their teeth, with the win.
“The last time we won [a SEC game on the road] was Feb. 23rd, 2014 against Vanderbilt and my dad died that day, so I remember that day for many reasons,” said Alabama head coach Kristy Curry. “This is just a great thing to check off of our list and not have to worry about anymore. I’m just happy for our kids.”
Missouri hits the road again to take on LSU this Thursday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. ET. Alabama also will play that same day against Kentucky at 8 p.m ET.