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Cunningham, Frericks power Mizzou to first NCAA tournament victory since 2001

Nearly one year ago, Sophie Cunningham helped Rock Bridge win its fourth straight title. On Saturday, the former Bruin carried Mizzou Women’s Basketball into the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Cunningham scored 20 points to help Mizzou beat BYU 78 to 69, as Mizzou gets its first NCAA tournament win since 2001. Junior forward Jordan Frericks led Missouri in the first half with 10 first-half points. The former Quincy Notre Dame star finished with 19 points and 9 rebounds.

Times were tense for Missouri with 5:19 left in game. Lindsey Cunningham fouled out as BYU went on a 7-2 run. The Cougars got to within two. But free throws from Frericks and Juanita Robinson helped the Tigers hold off the late BYU run.

Frericks was able to assert herself from the tipoff. The Cougars were leading 13-6 before Jordan Frericks led a Missouri run. The Tigers answered with a 7-0 run to tie up the game.

The Tigers were down 17-15 after one quarter but were able to turn on the offense. Missouri went on a 13-2 in the middle of the second period, thanks to Frericks. But Lexi Rydalch scored seven straight points for BYU, cutting the lead to 35-28. Mackenzi Pulsipher then hit a three to make it a two possession game with 38 seconds left in the half. Mizzou took a 35-31 into the halftime break.

In the second half, with Jordan Frericks and Cierra Porter in foul trouble, Sophie Cunningham picked up the offensive production. She scored eight quick points in the paint, helping Mizzou reclaim a nine-point three minutes into the third quarter.

The Tigers took advantage of BYU foul trouble. Kalani Purcell, who averages more than 12 rebounds a game, had four fouls with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter. Missouri worked the paint, as Sophie Cunningham rattled off four straight layups to extend the Missouri lead. Rydalch, who averaged more than 24 points per game coming into Saturday’s game, also fouled out late in the fourth quarter, taking away a big scoring threat for BYU. In all, the Tigers had 36 points in the paint and made 23 of 28 shots at the charity stripe to seal the game.

Missouri will face off against Texas or Alabama State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday.

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