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You win some, you lose some

Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, Mizzou suffered a big loss. And then they snagged a big win. They occurred in different sports, but let’s not get hung up on semantics.

Bad news first: the basketball team lost at Tennessee, 79-61. From the Post-Dispatch:

The Tigers (7-19, 2-12) showed no signs of being the team that recorded quality wins recently over Vanderbilt and Arkansas, nor did they resemble the squad that had recent narrow losses to Texas A&M and Alabama. They didn’t reach double figures until the 8:37 mark of the first half and they also had a near-six-minute scoreless drought in the first half.

Things didn’t start great, basically. And they never really improved.

Tennessee jumped out to an 18-5 lead during the opening 8 1/2 minutes and remained in control aside from a 2:29 stretch late in the first half when Mizzou mounted an 11-0 run only to allow a five-point possession that crushed any building momentum.

“It was a deflating point, because we obviously got off to a slow start and then clawed our way back in …,” said sophomore guard Terrence Phillips, who scored a team-high 18 for Mizzou. “We never really recovered, but we never stopped playing.”

Luckily, the women’s basketball team was there to save the weekend. They notched a huge, upset win over the No. 6 Gamecocks of South Carolina thanks to some clutch play by Sophie Cunningham.

In the biggest moment of Missouri’s biggest game of the season the sophomore delivered the signature victory of the year with a buzzer-beating layup to upset No. 6 South Carolina 62-60.

Just how did she pull off the game-winning shot?

“I don’t really remember much of it,” she said 20 minutes later, still giddy and giggling over the basket that probably clinched Mizzou’s second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“See,” Tigers coach Robin Pingeton said, sitting next to her star player, “this is what I get to coach.”

Cunningham is no stranger to late-game heroics, and her coach recognizes what she has.

“She’s mature beyond her years,” Pingeton said of Sophie, and then referenced this year's Feb. 5 loss at Mississippi State as a game that the team used as a reference point to get a victory like Sunday’s.

“From that point on, I feel like we’ve played with a lot more poise,” Pingeton said. “That’s been our theme all year. We really wanted to learn and get better from all of those (losses), and our team’s done a good job of that.

“And certainly, you gotta acknowledge what a special player Sophie is.”

She truly is a special player, and she’s made even better by her teammate. Lianna Doty most of all. Arguably.

I get frustrated when she’s on me,” the 6-1 Cunningham said. “I’m like, ‘No, Doty, get away.’ She’s very little. So the ball’s always down at her level so she can get those steals.”

In her fifth and final year in a college uniform, Doty has rejuvenated a career jeopardized by a foot injury two years ago — a season-ending setback some feared would keep her off the court for good. But after accepting a reduced role for the Tigers last season, Doty’s back in Pingeton’s starting lineup, playing an integral role for another team bound for the NCAA Tournament.

Doty’s return to the lineup after a foot injury in 2014 has been nothing if not miraculous. And the Tigers are all the better for it.

“A lot of the doctors were very hesitant whether I’d be able to get back to where I was, or even back to the court,” Doty said.

She did return last season, but her minutes dropped. She averaged 24.9 and 28.3 minutes during her first two years, and that number dipped to 12.4 last season. Doty posted 1.3 points and 1.5 assists a game. She had more turnovers (48) than assists (47).

Fast-forward to this season, and Doty is back to her former self.

“She’s really doing a great job of getting us into our offensive flow,” Pingeton said. “She’s just been really steady for us.”

That steadying presence will be a boon for the Tigers come post-season play. Know if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go knock on all of the wood in my apartment.

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