Sophie Cunningham put her arms up as Tennessee's Rennia Davis drove wildly past her and ran towards mid-court, realizing Davis' desperate, game-tying shot was going to fall short.
The final horn sounded, and it was all over. Cunningham let out a holler and beamed as one thing became very clear: Missouri had made its statement.
In what could become a season-defining victory, Cunningham and the Tigers stormed out of Thompson-Boling Arena with a hard-fought 66-64 win over the No. 10 Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Sunday afternoon.
In a game that had 13 lead changes, Missouri (13-3, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) beat Tennessee on the road for the first time in its history. It was also the team's first road win against a top 10 opponent since 2001.
Cunningham's physical style of play caused Lady Volunteers players, fans and even coaches to jaw at her all afternoon. But the heckling didn't get to Missouri's star guard, who set the tone of the game by making two first quarter 3's that relaxed her team. She finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists, but also turned the ball over six times.
It wasn't just Cunningham who struggled to take care of the ball, however: The Tigers committed 19 giveaways, including 12 in the first half. But when they went to the locker room after their first 20 minutes of play, they trailed by just one, thanks in large part to their ability to get back on defense. Missouri was spectacular in transition defense, and it held the SEC's second-highest scoring team to just four fast-break points and 10 points off turnovers.
In a hostile, high-intensity environment, freshmen — even those of the redshirt kind — rarely have career-best games. But Haley Troup is no normal redshirt freshman, and she more than proved that against the Lady Volunteers. Missouri's calm and collected guard was electric, drilling four 3's en route to a career-high 16 points on just seven shots. Her efforts led a bench unit that finished with 25 points on the day.
Every time Missouri needed to silence the Tennessee crowd, Troup was seemingly always there to do the job. She got separation on both wings thanks to some quality screens from her teammates, and used it to light up the scoreboard. Fittingly, her final points came at the six minute, eight second mark, when she caught a pass from Cunningham and drained a deep 3 that gave Missouri the lead for good.
Troup's calm demeanor modeled that of redshirt senior Lauren Aldridge, who also had a big day Sunday. She finished with 12 points and a perfect 3 of 3 from downtown while also pulling down five rebounds. In a moment that made her look more like Cunningham than her usual self, she got a rise out of Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick at the end of the third quarter when Warlick took exception to her clapping while facing the Lady Volunteers' bench.
Missouri won despite getting an uncharacteristically quiet offensive performance out of Amber Smith. The junior guard finished with seven points and eight rebounds, but seemed outmatched on the lower blocks at times against some of Tennessee's more athletic guards and forwards. She also sustained an injury to her left leg early in the third quarter. Although she did return, she may have been slowed a bit by the impact she took.
The Tigers were outrebounded 41-33 and gave up 18 offensive rebounds and 15 second chance points. But by shooting 10 of 22 from beyond the arc and making all of their possessions count, they were able to control the pace of the game.
Missouri will see if its upset victory gets it back in the top 25 on Monday. For now, the team will head back to Columbia to take on Arkansas at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Supervising editor is Reed Koutelas.