COLUMBIA — For a few minutes, Missouri women's basketball fans remembered what it was like to not have a Cunningham on the court.
Sophie Cunningham, Missouri’s standout sophomore guard, clapped her hands three times, squared her shoulders toward center court and took her seat along the middle of the Tigers’ sideline. Her absence from the starting lineup wasn't expected to hurt Missouri much against Southern Illinois — Edwardsville. The Tigers trounced the Cougars by 29 points last season.
It didn’t, as Missouri pulled off a 72-60 win. But Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton did not take the situation lightly, given Missouri’s track record staying healthy. Cunningham, out with a back injury, joined five of Missouri's 13 players on the team's inactive list.
“Obviously some adjustments with Sophie injured,” Pingeton said following the win. “It’s going to be day-by-day.”
Cunningham, Missouri’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, was soon joined on the bench by her sister.
Late in the first quarter, Lindsey Cunningham took a hard tumble down the baseline after a hard knock to her cheekbone. Wincing slightly, the senior guard was consoled by members of the medical staff and Pingeton as she walked toward the locker room holding her left arm over her head.
When asked about the possibility of bringing in a walk-on amid the stockpile of injuries, Pingeton said she’s “toyed with it a little bit.”
Lindsey Cunningham returned a few minutes later, and the Tigers (7-3) cruised to victory over the Cougars (2-6). She finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, marking her first double-double of the season.
“When she was ready there was no hesitation,” Pingeton said, noting that she believed Lindsey Cunningham was checked for a possible concussion by the medical staff. “Being a fifth-year senior, we needed her out there on that court.”
The win, which followed a 28-point “disappointing and embarrassing” road loss to IUPUI, according to senior guard Lianna Doty, came largely thanks to senior guard Sierra Michaelis and sophomore forward Cierra Porter.
The pair of “Sierra’s” combined to score 42 points, ignited by a trio of 3-pointers from Michaelis on Missouri’s first three offensive possessions.
Michaelis scored six 3-pointers total while finishing with a game-high 24 points, her largest scoring output since a 28-point effort against Georgia on March 5, 2015. Meanwhile, Porter contributed her fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“With Sophie (Cunningham) out I knew I had big shoes to fill,” Michaelis said.
“We don’t have a whole lot of bodies right now,” Doty added. “Whatever minutes you’re on the court you get after it.”
Minus zero, one or two Cunningham sisters, Missouri will host Wichita State on Friday at 7 p.m.
Supervising editor is Brooks Holton.