Cunningham powers No. 10 Missouri over No. 7 BYU 78-69
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Freshman Sophie Cunningham scored 20 points, most of it in a dominant third quarter, and No. 10 seed Missouri upset No. 7 BYU 78-69 Saturday night, the Tigers' first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.
Cunningham scored 16 in the third as Missouri built an 11-point lead then held on down the stretch when BYU got within 62-60 midway through the fourth.
BYU's Lexi Rydalch, the West Coast Conference career scoring leader, scored 22 points for the Cougars, but had just seven after halftime and fouled out with less than 2 minutes to play and her team trailing by five.
Missouri shot 23 of 28 from the free throw line, and made 13 over the final 3 minutes as BYU (26-7) desperately probed for the lead.
Jordan Frericks added 19 points for Missouri (22-9) in the Tigers' first tournament game since 2006.
Cunningham, the SEC freshman of the year, set a school record with 42 points in a win over Wake Forest early in the season and took over the game in the third quarter against BYU. After a 1-4 shooting effort in the first half with several wild shots, Cunningham went 6-of-6 in the third.
BYU had worried before the game about being able to match the Tigers' physical style of play, and particularly struggled to match up with the 6-foot-1 Cunningham, a guard who would push under the basket and take advantage of the size mismatch when the Cougars tried to defend her with much smaller players in the post.
BYU started hot, shooting 61 percent in a tight first quarter that saw Cougars leading 17-15 to start the second. Missouri threatened to break the game open in the second as the Tigers made four 3-pointers in a 15-4 run that opened up a 33-21 Tigers lead.
Rydalch kept the Cougars in it with 15 points in the first half and slowed the Tigers' run with five consecutive points. Makenzi Pulsipher's 3-pointer with 38 seconds left in the half cut Missouri's lead to 35-31.
Missouri again pushed the lead to double digits in the third only to see BYU claw its way back. Cunningham scored several baskets off backdoor cuts and Kayla McDowell made a 3-pointer as the Tigers built a 52-41 lead. Rydalch scored five points in the quarter for the Cougars but struggled to find her shot to keep the Tigers from rolling into the fourth still ahead by 11.
BYU's last chance came when Cierra Porter's layup cut the Missouri lead to 66-64 with 2:18 to play before Rydalch fouled out and Missouri put the game away with free throws.
BYU: The West Coast Conference regular season champions lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after a run to the Sweet 16 in 2014.
Missouri: The Cougars' worries about a physical mismatch were real. Missouri won the rebounding30-20 and outscored BYU 36-26 in the paint.
Missouri: plays the winner of Alabama State and Texas
BYU: Season's over.