Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pingeton Expects Tigers to Build off Breakthrough Season

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pingeton Expects Tigers to Build off Breakthrough Season

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, MO. * The goal for Missouri's women's basketball team was unsaid but obvious from the start of the season. In Robin Pingeton's sixth year on the Mizzou bench, the Tigers accomplished that mission, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. Mizzou even managed to win a game in the tourney, beating higher-seeded Brigham Young before a lopsided second-round loss to Texas.

By every measure, Mizzou's 22-10 season was the program's best in a decade.

"Every year we've just continued to build, and our program has continued to make great strides," Pingeton told reporters in Austin, Texas, after Monday's season-ending 18-point loss to Texas. "You know, every year is so unique and different with different personalities and the kids you lose and the kids that join your team, but I do think it's a springboard. And I think for us, they needed the experience. It was at that point in our building process that we talked a lot about this, and so they need to experience this opportunity in the NCAA and to understand what it takes to not only get here but to be successful here."

With success comes expectations. Next year, the Tigers will return four starters and 80 percent of this season's scoring and 87 percent of their rebounding. Pingeton has to replace four seniors, including twin sisters Morgan and Maddie Stock from St. Louis, but the core returns, led by Sophie Cunningham, the most celebrated freshman to play for the Tigers. The 6-1 guard lived up to her credentials as a McDonald's All-American and four-time state champion, leading the Tigers in scoring (14.0 points a game) and assists (3.0). It took Cunningham only four games to set the team's single-game scoring record with 42 points against Wake Forest on Nov. 22. Voted the SEC freshman of the year, Cunningham overcame a midseason slump and finished strong with 43 points in the two NCAA Tournament games.

Cunningham expects her debut season to catapult the Tigers into greater success next year.

"But it's not just me," she said in Austin. "It's my teammates, as well. I think us being here, I've never been here before, and us being here is going to make us work a little harder because we don't want to end the season like this next year. …

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