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No. 2 Mississippi State holds off No. 15 Missouri, 57-53

The Tigers have now lost three straight following a heartbreaking loss.

An irate Robin Pingeton made her way out onto the floor. Teaira McCowan had fallen to the court while securing an offensive rebound, and Pingeton was sure she had traveled.

The officials quickly tagged Missouri’s coach with a technical foul, which led to two crucial free throws by Blair Schaefer to extend Mississippi State’s lead to four. Less than three minutes were left in the game, and the free points proved to make the difference difference as No. 15 Missouri fell 57-53 to No. 2 Mississippi State

Mizzou (17-5, 5-4 SEC) led by as many as 11 points in the first half and gave the Bulldogs a legitimate scare, but the Tigers managed just 19 second-half points. Schaefer led Mississippi State (23-0, 9-0 SEC) with 20 points and drew the game-saving offensive foul on Jordan Frericks. Sophie Cunningham scored 20 of her own, but it wasn’t enough.

Missouri led by two points after the first period thanks to a solid start by Cunningham. She scored seven points and hit three of her first four shots.

To start the second quarter, however, things began to shift. Missouri missed its first five shots, and Mississippi State took the lead on baskets by Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan.

Mizzou’s momentum was slowing, but then Amber Smith made her presence known. Smith tied things up with a smooth post move, and a couple possessions later found herself securing an offensive rebound.

Cunningham had just missed a 3-pointer, but Smith quickly kicked the ball back out to her. She wouldn’t miss a second time. The sophomore guard wasn’t done yet, scoring on a layup after a Bulldogs’ miss to push the Tigers’ lead to seven.

Mississippi State worked the lead down to four points, but then Lauren Aldridge got into the mix. She nailed back-to-back threes to give Missouri its first double-digit lead of the night, and Mizzou Arena erupted in response.

Mizzou went into halftime up nine and held the Bulldogs to just 25 points on 28 percent shooting. McCowan and Vivians combined for 14 points, but it took them 15 shots to do so. Cunningham led all scorers with 12 of her own.

Mississippi State returned to form to start the second half. Vivians opened things up with a couple of layups, and then Schaefer hit a three as a part of a 7-0 run to make it a two-point game.

Following a Cunningham layup to put Missouri back up four, Schaefer knocked down yet another 3-pointer. Vivians used a sweet pump-fake to get open before she made a mid-range jumper to give the Bulldogs a 39-38 lead.

Mississippi State would outscore Mizzou 16-6 in the third quarter and took a 43-40 lead into the fourth. Both teams started the period in a stalemate, with neither team scoring for over two minutes.

Cunningham ended that with a huge corner three that tied the game and Smith retook the lead on a spinning layup in the lane. The Bulldogs and Tigers traded baskets from there, but Missouri had the chance to extend its lead after a missed shot by Vivians.

Instead, Cunningham picked up her fourth foul on an illegal screen and a McCowan layup tied it. McCowan split free throws on two trips to the line to make it 49-47 Mississippi State. The Bulldogs wouldn’t trail again.

Robin Pingeton picked up a costly technical foul down the stretch that led to two Schaefer free throws. The Tigers fell behind by six after two more Schaefer freebies, and the game seemed to be fading away.

Aldridge hit a huge 3-pointer to make it a three-point game and end an 8-0 run by the Bulldogs. Missouri got a stop with 13 seconds left, and had a chance to tie things back up.

After several timeouts, the ball predictably found its way to Cunningham’s hands. As soon as she caught it, she hoisted up and drained an enormous 3-pointer.

Vivians answered by calmly stroking a mid-range jumper with 2.8 seconds, and an offensive foul on Frericks essentially ended the game.

Missouri Press Conference

Mississippi State Press Conference

Missouri has another chance to redeem itself when it hosts Florida at 6 p.m. Monday.