Mizzou Women Play Saturday Night In NCAA Tournament
The University of Missouri women’s basketball team has earned its tenth NCAA tournament bid and first since 2006.The Mizzou Tigers will play BYU on Saturday night at 5:45 pm (CST) in Austin, Texas. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.
The Mizzou women’s basketball team started out the 2015-2016 regular season on a tear, going 13-0 in non-conference games.
The first game of SEC play served as a reminder for the team that they play in the toughest conference in the country. The Tigers struggled to an 8-8 record in conference play and bowed out of the SEC Tournament with a two-point loss to Auburn in their first game.
Luckily, the selection committee realized the strength of the SEC and put nine teams from the conference into the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers have been led this season by the freshmen duo of Sophie Cunningham and Cierra Porter. Cunningham has been one of the top freshmen in the country while Porter averages 9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while being tied for the team lead in blocked shot. Strong performances from both of them on Saturday against BYU are key for Mizzou.
Mizzou saw some breakout performances from multiple players during the regular season.
Juniors Jordan Frericks and Lindsey Cunningham have been consistent performers all season under coach Robin Pingeton. Frericks leads the team in rebounds per game and also averages 12 points per contest. Cunningham, older sister of Sophie, leads the team in assists per game and is a leader on the floor.
Frericks and Sophie Cunningham were both named Second Team All-SEC after the regular season. Cunningham and Cierra Porter were both named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Cunningham was named the SEC Freshman of the Year, an award she also won from the Associated Press. Sophie is also a finalist for the United States Basketball Writers Association National Freshman of the Year award.
Missouri players and coaches react to 2016 NCAA Tournament bid
Saturday in Austin marks a whole new season for the team. The program will be making its tenth overall appearance in the tournament and first since 2006. The Tigers were defeated by Virginia Tech in the first round in that last appearance. The last Tiger win in the tournament came in 2001. That team beat Wisconsin in the first round and Georgia in the second before falling to Louisiana Tech.
As the No. 10 seed in the Bridgeport region, Mizzou will play the No. 7 seed, BYU, in the first round. A win over BYU would likely pit Mizzou against No. 2 seed Texas.
BYU (26-6) won the West Coast Conference during the regular season and the program is making its third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Cougars are coming off a loss to San Francisco in the WCC tournament championship game.
Mizzou will have to be prepared for BYU’s Lexi Rydalch, who leads BYU in scoring with 24 points per game. An outstanding Utah prep athlete before coming to BYU, Rydalch was First Team All-WCC last season and was named to the Honorable Mention AP All-American team.
Junior Kalani Purcell, from New Zealand, is a force on the defensive glass for the Cougars. She has more defensive rebounds than anyone in the country and her 12.7 rebounds per game rank fifth in the country.
In breaking down the opening match-ups, ESPN pointed to BYU’s three-point shooting as a key for them. Overall, the team connects on about 37 percent of its attempts. Rydalch hit 83 of her 217 3-point attempts (38%) on the season.
Missouri took about 100 more three-point attempts than BYU did this season, but only made 4 more than the Cougars. Sierra Michaelis and Morgan Stock were the team leaders with 48 and 49 three-pointers made, respectively. Neither connected on more than 34.8 percent of their attempts.
In order for the Missouri Tigers to beat the BYU Cougars on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament they are going to have to be on their game from behind the three-point arc.
Mizzou will need also need big games from their freshmen, Sophie Cunningham and Cierra Porter.
No matter whats happens on Saturday night, right now the Missouri Tigers are happy to be dancin’.
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