Missouri's Sophie Cunningham encourages her teammates

Missouri guard Sophie Cunningham encourages her teammates after the game against Green Bay on Nov. 16 at Mizzou Arena.

Ranked teams, especially those looking to host NCAA Tournament games in March, aren't supposed to lose nonconference games against unranked opponents. 

But that's exactly what transpired to the No. 16 Missouri Tigers in Friday night's 56-49 loss to the Green Bay Phoenix. If they're not careful, the Tigers could suffer the same fate at 7 p.m. Monday against the SIU Edwardsville Cougars.

The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+ and KTGR. 

The Cougars profile similarly to the Phoenix. Although not quite to Green Bay's level as one of the best defensive teams in Division I a season ago, the team still has enjoyed a strong start to the season, holding opponents to 53 points per game through two contests. 

But SIUE does not have the same polish as a program as Green Bay. The team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2007 and has never won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

However, the Cougars still sport players that could pose problems for Missouri. 

Among those players is senior forward Sydney Bauman. The 6-foot-3 center set an SIUE school record last season with 63 blocks and has gotten off to a hot start in her final campaign. Through her team's first two contests, Bauman has averaged 9.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game and recorded five blocks. With Missouri's lack of size down low, the team might be forced to double-team Bauman on defense and will need to keep her off the boards as much as possible. 

Missouri's primary concern Monday night will be getting back in the saddle on offense. The Tigers have endured brutal extended stretches of listless offense in their last two games that have been facilitated by a stagnant offense. Against the Cougars, Missouri will need more off-ball movement to get its offense going again. 

The Tigers also have to shoot the ball better. Against the Phoenix, the team shot 30 percent from the field, 26 percent from beyond the arc and 59 percent from the free-throw line. Those numbers will likely go up against the Cougars, but the team will simply have to make more shots to have the kind of success they're looking for against the Cougars and going forward in the season. 

Missouri will also hope to get the same kind of performance that it got out of junior guard Amber Smith on Friday night against Green Bay; she had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Additionally, the Tigers will be hoping to get more scoring out of senior guard Sophie Cunningham, who's scored 19 points in her last two games after opening the season with 31 points against Western Illinois on Nov. 6.

Both Cunningham and Smith will likely fare better against the Cougars if they get some help from their team's reserves, who managed just four points as a unit in Friday evening's loss.

If Smith or Cunningham can avoid getting into foul trouble, which would force the other to have to dominate the team's offense, the Tigers should be able to find some success Monday night. 

Supervising editor is Eric Lee.

  • Fall 2018 sports beat writer. I am a junior studying sports journalism.

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