Nathalie Jones, 23 Sports

Tuesday, February 28—

No. 23 Missouri Tigers women’s basketball is not only headed to the SEC tournament on a five-game winning streak, but also with high honors. Head Coach Robin Pingeton, Sophie Cunningham and Amber Smith received SEC recognition. Pingeton was awarded SEC Coach of the Year, Cunningham won First Team All-SEC and Smith received SEC Co-Freshman of the Year and made the SEC All-Freshman Team.

Pingeton has guided the Tigers to a winning season thus far at 21-9, 11-5 SEC. The 2016-2017 season wasn’t Pingeton’s only successful season, as she is the first coach to lead Mizzou to consecutive 20-win seasons since 1987. It has not been all smooth sailing, however, as Missouri lost two of their star players, Jordan Frericks and Bri Porter, to torn ACLs before the season had even started, forcing Pingeton to adjust the game plan. She joins Joann Rutherford as the second coach in program history to win conference coach of the year.

On the court, Sophie Cunningham has been the talk of the town. If the Tigers are a train, Cunningham is the engine that keeps it moving forward. The stats say it all this season as she averages 17.8 points per game, including four consecutive 20-point efforts to close the season. In addition, Cunningham averages 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, not to mention her 84.4 percent free throw shooting, second in the SEC. Looking past the stats, she is a leader on the court as well as the definition of a team player.

The final postseason honor for the Tigers came through Smith. She achieved the honor of being Mizzou’s fourth SEC Freshman of the Year, along with Cunningham last season. Smith, who shares the award with Florida’s Delicia Washington, averaged 5.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. She has been a breakout star of sorts for the Tigers, making nine starts with an average of 16.3 minutes per game. Shooting 48.5 percent from 3-point range, Smith set yet another record, in a season of records, for the program.

The Missouri Tigers will move on to compete in postseason play in the SEC Tournament. Mizzou will tip off on March 3rd at 7:30 p.m. for the quarterfinals in Greenville, South Carolina.