Womens Basketball: Florida Gulf Coast vs Missouri - D1SportsNet


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Womens basketball

Florida Gulf Coast vs Missouri

The Missouri women's basketball team earned its best-ever seed in the NCAA Tournament. But it won't play a first-round game at home.

Instead, the Tigers (24-7), seeded fifth in the Lexington Region, will travel to Stanford, Calif., to face 12th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday.

"We were holding out hope we'd have a chance to host," Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I felt like we were probably on the bubble, on the outside looking in. Obviously disappointed but at the same time I think we tried to expect for this scenario that we'd be traveling. It's a great feeling how far we've come as a program. A few years ago, we were on the edge of our seats trying to figure out if we'd even make the tournament. Now the expectations are we're in a position to host. I guess in perspective it's very positive. We're moving the needle as a program."

Missouri is making its third straight trip to the tournament.

Last season as the sixth seed, the Tigers posted a 66-64 win over South Florida before losing 77-55 to Florida State. In 2016, Missouri was seeded seventh, beat BYU by nine before losing to Texas by 18 points.

"It's not new to us anymore," junior forward Cierra Porter told The Kansas City Star. "We have expectations. It's different teams. Teams we're not used to playing. You have to go there and take care of yourself first and foremost. We're just in the mindset. We're in attack mode. We're ready to go."

Missouri comes in having dropped two of its past three, a 19-point blowout at Texas A&M and a quarterfinal loss to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Tournament when it shot 27.1 percent. Six of the Tigers' seven losses were to SEC teams. The Tigers also lost to Conference USA champ Western Kentucky.

"You start to compare who beat who at home or away. There's a lot of things you could dive into," Pingeton said. "Bottom line, it's been a great year, and we're looking forward to playing in the NCAA Tournament."

Since the loss to Georgia, the Tigers have focused on their offense after the Bulldogs held them to a season-low 41 points.

"Things are starting to feel normal again," point guard Lauren Aldridge said.

Florida Gulf Coast (30-4) advanced to the tournament with a 68-58 win over Jacksonville to take the Atlantic Sun Conference crown and has topped 80 points in five of its last eight games.

The Eagles have one win in four previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament and pushed No. 4 Miami before falling 62-60 a year ago. Their fifth bid comes in just the team's seventh year of Division I postseason eligibility.

The Eagles, who ranked 22nd in the nation in scoring (78.6 points per game), and the Tigers will be meeting for the first time ever.

"They have one of the best players in the nation in Sophie Cunningham," FGCU head coach Karl Smesko said after the bracket was revealed, according to the team's website. "Other than that, we're going to have to do a lot of studying over the next couple of days to get ourselves ready."

Cunningham is averaging 18 points per game and shooting 53.8 percent in the field and 46.6 percent from long range, third best in the nation. Cunningham was 3 of 17 in the loss to Georgia in the SEC tournament.

FGCU players were confident their coach would have them ready.

"I think everybody is going to be extremely confident just because we'll know (Missouri) inside and out by the time the game comes around," sixth-year senior Taylor Gradinjan added. "(Coach) Smesko is always good about giving us an amazing game plan -- just something to exploit their weaknesses and our strengths. So, yeah, confidence is high."