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Cunningham, Porter reflect on storied careers

Here are today’s Mizzou Links.

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament - Missouri vs Kentucky Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Sophie Cunningham and Cierra Porter look back on memorable Tiger careers

At the end of every season (in every college sport) there’s a lot of reflection done by and surrounding every senior, specifically those that made meaningful contributions to their teams. We did it with Drew Lock after football, and we’ll do it soon with Jordan Geist and Kevin Puryear.

However, very rarely does there come an opportunity to look back on a career like Sophie Cunningham’s.

Cunningham — along with fellow Mizzou star Cierra Porter and the similarly foundational Lauren Aldridge — saw her career end on Saturday with a 68-52 loss to Iowa in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.

Things were looking up for the Tigers as they headed toward the half. However, foul trouble for Cunningham left the Hawkeyes an opening they didn’t miss.

The Hawkeyes went on an 11-0 run to take a four-point lead heading into halftime. The tone changed when Cunningham picked up her third foul with 2:10 left in the half. She didn’t score in the second or third quarter. The game quickly fell away from Mizzou.

Mizzou was able to tie the game in the third quarter, but couldn’t keep up with the Hawkeyes in the fourth. Cunningham and many of her teammates were holding back tears as they walked back, but couldn’t stop emotions from flowing in the locker room.

But Cunningham’s voice caught when she reflected on her Missouri career. Cunningham isn’t done playing basketball — she’ll likely be selected in next month’s WNBA Draft — and she said it’s “not basketball, … not the shots or the records” that she’ll miss most.

“I think my biggest thing is leaving this family,” Cunningham said.

Based on their reactions, they will miss her too. Junior Jordan Roundtree, who came up big in several games down the stretch, spoke glowingly of the entire senior class.

Sitting in the locker room, still emotional from the thought of Cunningham — a player she has looked up to — Porter and Aldridge not returning, she said, “This is a special senior class... The impact they’ve had on me and the city of Columbia is untouched.”

Obviously this isn’t the end of the successful roads Missouri basketball or Sophie Cunningham are both on. Cunningham will go on to the WNBA in the coming months, and Robin Pingeton will enter next year with an experienced team and one of the program’s best recruiting classes ever.

But it’s unlikely anyone — no matter how talented — will fill her shoes. The “legacy” posts are already starting, not even 24 hours after the loss. We’ll have one of our own coming early this week. For now, we’ll just say thanks to Sophie Cunningham, Cierra Porter and Lauren Aldridge for doing their part to revive Missouri basketball and lay the foundations for something even better to come.

If you want to watch interviews with the players and coaches, head over to ABC 17. Andrew Kauffman and Tyler Murray have done a great job covering the team this season, and they followed through to the end.

Yesterday at Rock M

More Links:

  • Former Mizzou star and NFL veteran Jeremy Maclin confirmed his retirement on Twitter yesterday:

His cousin Jay, a current Mizzou football target, promised to continue the family legacy just one day after announcing his top four schools, which includes Mizzou.

  • Mizzou Softball continues to roll in SEC play, sweeping a weekend series at No. 13 Kentucky. The Larissa Anderson era got off to a slow start, but the Tigers have gone 5-1 in their last two SEC series against two schools ranked in the Top 15.
  • In other diamond news, Steve Bieser’s squad earned its first SEC series win, taking two of three from No. 20 Ole Miss. Sunday’s rubber match was power by the team’s best hitter thus far — junior Chris Cornelius — and Paul Gomez, who has struggled in limited at-bats but went 2-4 with a double and home run on Sunday.

The Tigers also got a highlight reel contribution from freshman Josh Holt. This is one you have to see...