Jordan Frericks scored a layup to give Mizzou an 11-point lead with three minutes left in the first quarter. The Tigers’ edge wouldn’t fall under 10 points for the rest of the game.
No. 11 Missouri (17-2, 5-1 SEC) continued its program-best start to the season with an 88-54 blowout win over Arkansas (11-9, 2-5 SEC). The Tigers couldn’t seem to miss, shooting 52 percent both from the field and 3-point range. Incredible ball movement resulted in Mizzou assisting on 21 of its 27 field goals.
“This is the most fun basketball I’ve ever played,” Sophie Cunningham said. “No one cares who’s scoring the ball, everyone’s scoring the ball, and that’s just really fun to play and I’m sure it’s fun to watch too. It’s very rare for teams to do this.”
On the other end of the floor, Mizzou clamped down and held the Razorbacks to just 33 percent shooting. The Tigers also won the physical battle, out-rebounding Arkansas 43-33 and taking 20 more free throws.
Sunday’s game, however, was about more than just basketball.
Missouri swapped out its usual pre-game attire for white t-shirts with the words “We Back Pat” printed on the rear. The shirts commemorated the SEC’s “We Back Pat” week, which will last from Jan. 21-28. The goal of the week is to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.
Mizzou players and coaches alike donned their custom shirts all game long as an ode legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who passed away in 2016 after her battle with Alzheimer’s. If you’re interested in supporting or learning more about the cause, click here.
“In high school my sister got recruited by her,” Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said, reflecting on the first time she met Summitt. “She came on a home visit and at that point I was out in the driveway shooting, trying to get a scholarship offer too. That didn’t work so well.”
When she was in grade school, Lauren Aldridge also had the chance to meet Summitt at the shootaround for a Tennessee and Arkansas game. “I think she’s left an incredible legacy. I think she and all of her teams have paved the way for us to be able to do what we do on a daily basis,” Aldridge said.
Even with Cierra Porter missing her second straight game due to flu-like symptoms, Missouri absolutely dominated Arkansas early in the post. Frericks and Kayla Michael combined for 15 of the Tigers’ first 22 points.
After a Razorback three, Michael scored back to back layups to give her team a nine-point advantage. On the second score, Jordan Chavis rewarded Michael for running the floor with a full-court dime following an Arkansas miss.
Michael finished with 13 points and three rebounds. “I think it was probably one of her best games she’s had,” Pingeton said. “Maybe even her best game. Kayla’s in a great place, she’s a great teammate, she’s so unselfish. It’s 100 percent about the front of the jersey, I think she’s just trying to enjoy every moment that’s left in her senior career.”
Not to be outdone, the duo of Cunningham and Amber Smith scored 10 points to push Mizzou’s lead to 28-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Cunningham’s hot hand carried over into the next quarter to the tune of six straight points. Her outburst was a part of a 9-0 run that made it a 19-point game just three minutes into the period.
Just as Arkansas managed to chip the lead down to 15 points with a couple threes, Missouri reeled off a 10-0 spurt. The Razorbacks were forced to worry about the interior so much that it resulted in a couple wide-open threes for Aldridge and Jordan Roundtree.
The Tigers offense was clicking, and it seemed like there was nothing that Arkansas could do about it. Mizzou led the Razorbacks 51-29 at half and the game was all but over.
Cunningham led all scorers with 22 points on just seven shots while Aldridge, Michael, Chavis and Frericks all scored at least 12. Porter’s one of Missouri’s best players, but in two successive games without her it has still looked like one of the best teams in the country.
Missouri will travel to Georgia to play the Bulldogs (17-2, 5-1 SEC) at 6 p.m. Thursday. “It’s going to be a tough match-up, no doubt about it,” Pingeton said.