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Robin Pingeton’s Tigers end a brutal basketball week on a high note

Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

Behind Cunningham’s big night, Tigers right the ship

It’s no secret that the past week has been tough for Missouri basketball. Coming into Sunday, the men and women had gone a combined 0-4 to go along with a big injury to Mark Smith, a home letdown to LSU and the transfer of highly-touted freshman Grace Berg. Given Robin Pingeton’s squad’s troubles at home, Sunday presented the possibility of a truly disastrous week for Mizzou Hoops.

Fortunately, the Mayor of Columbia had other plans. Behind a 30-point outing from Sophie Cunningham, the Tigers got back on track against 15-5 Auburn, winning by a not-as-close-as-it-appears score of 74-65.

It was the ending Missouri needed to a tumultuous week. Missouri responded to the blowout losses to South Carolina and Kentucky. The Tigers moved to 5-3 in the SEC and 5th in the conference standings.

It’s still concerning that the Tigers are still getting around 50 percent (more on most nights) of their scoring production from Cunningham and Amber Smith. But Cierra Porter is giving the Tigers a needed inside presence — 12 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes — and it looks like Cunningham is finding her groove just in time for the heart of the conference schedule. If Cunningham is on, the Tigers won’t need too many others to find the bottom of the hoop.

On the flip side, things are still looking down for Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers. After letting two winnable games slip by, the Tigers are staring at the possibility of a 1-8 start to conference play — in the next two weeks they’ve got road dates with Auburn and Tennessee and a home game against the ever-pesky Vanderbilt.

It’s easy to get caught up in pessimism surrounding men’s basketball — hell, that’s been the default setting much of the past decade. But it would be foolish to think the Tigers are in the worst of it. In fact, as Keegan Pope of PowerMizzou pointed out yesterday, the Tigers don’t have to look far to see how they could soon be back on top.

[Tennessee head coach Rick] Barnes has built a championship-level roster with players that were largely unwanted by high-major schools... Grant Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, had two other high-major offers. Six-foot-five power forward Admiral Schofield, who himself had only three high-major offers, is almost certainly a first-team All-SEC honoree at the end of the year. And Jordan Bone, who once considered transferring because of a lack of minutes, has developed into one of the best point guards in the SEC, doubling his scoring output over last season.

Keegan does a great job of highlighting the similarities between the two programs when taken over by their current head coaches. I’ll have my own column later this week looking at the perspective Tiger fans can cling to over the course of this season.

If anything, it’s nice to know the past week is over — and that it ended on a high note. The only thing Pingeton and Martin’s squads can do in response is learn their lessons and move forward.

Yesterday at Rock M

More Links:

  • Sean Williams took a look at Missouri football’s latest offer, an in-state corner out of the Kansas City area.
  • Spotted around Columbia, Mo.: a plethora of very good dogs
  • Andrew Kauffman talked to Brad Loos about the upcoming #RallyForRhyan game. It should be up on ABC 17’s website by the time y’all are here.
  • Mizzou alumnus Shane Ray is out here doing all sorts of good for federal employees left in the lurch over the past month.
  • Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports broke down his major takeaways from this weekend’s senior bowl, including his thoughts on the Daniel Jones vs. Drew Lock debate. (Teaser: He thinks only one of them is first-round pick material.)
  • In your regularly scheduled non-sports bulletin: Is anyone else out there watching this season of True Detective? I was nervous after the (overly criticized, but still not great) second season, but Nic Pizzolatto and Mahershala Ali are bringing the fire this year.