Video & Transcript: Missouri Talks About Falling to Hawkeyes | HawkeyeNation

Video & Transcript: Missouri Talks About Falling to Hawkeyes

March 24, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

ROBIN PINGETON: Just — obviously this is always the toughest press conference of the year. You know, it doesn’t really settle in immediately, but just the thought of this being it for our three seniors, it’s hard. It’s really hard. I just love these girls to death, and this senior class has been so incredibly special to the University of Missouri, on the court, off the court. They’ve paved a heck of a road for the kids to follow after their graduation, and they’ve done it the right way. They absolutely have done it the right way. Just enjoyed the heck out of the last four years.

I feel like — Sophie and I were just talking about before we came in here, I feel like I’ve known her for half her life. It is, it becomes family for life at our program. All of our seniors, just an incredible career, obviously, Sophie and what she’s meant to Columbia, she’s kind of become our golden child in Columbia, Missouri, and the way she’s embraced this fan base and the community has been awfully special.

Certainly when you come into a program, you want to make sure you leave it better than when you got there, and this senior class can say that. Sophie is one of the best in the country. She’s certainly left a legacy behind. I’m proud of our entire team. We battled. We had a hard time knocking down shots and had a hard time getting to that free-throw line. Needed to be more aggressive attacking off the bounce, but we played a really good Iowa team. We knew it was going to be a battle. What a great environment, what a great fan base here in Iowa City, and we knew it was going to be a challenge.

I thought we hung in there in that first half, and the second half we just had a hard time. That second and fourth quarter we really had a hard time scoring the ball, and I think ultimately that came back to haunt us.

I thought defensively we probably did one of the best jobs anyone has done on Iowa. I think we did a really good job, but offensively you’ve got to be able to knock down shots, and we just struggled in stretches tonight.

Q. Sophie, I know this is a hard one, but can you describe the feelings when you were coming off the floor for the last time? What was going through you?
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: It wasn’t because my season is over. I’ve been blessed. Hopefully I have more basketball in my future. But it’s just a family. It’s the family, it’s the culture, it’s the community that has embraced me, and I’m so blessed and humbled that God gave me this platform.

And I can’t stress that enough. I’m very blessed. I’m very fortunate, and it just humbles me, the support that I’ve gotten from my community, from my teammates, from my family. So it’s not the basketball, it’s the family that I’m going to miss the most.

Q. Sophie, describe how difficult Iowa made it for you to score the ball tonight.
SOPHIE CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, I think it was hard for everyone. I don’t think it was just me. I mean, they had me. But I think we did a really good defense. We had good defense on them. Right now I really don’t even want to talk about it. They’re a good team. I don’t know, didn’t get to the free-throw line at all, so I hope they do good down the road. But I’m just proud of our defense tonight.

Q. Amber, what kind of looks were you getting throughout the game? You were obviously the engine for this offense. What was allowing you to be successful today?
AMBER SMITH: They were stretching it out on Sophie and Lauren a little bit more and it left the middle wide open, and my teammates got me the ball in the best positions possible.

Q. Amber, just describe how difficult it was for you to guard against Gustafson, such a powerful player.
AMBER SMITH: I wasn’t really on her that much, but I mean, she’s a very good player, and we put ourselves in the best position that we possibly could. She was making tough shots tonight.

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Q. Coach, I thought your team played hard until the very end. You’ve got to be proud of the effort. Sometimes the shots just don’t fall.
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, I agree. Well, thank you. I thought we really competed. I thought we put ourselves in a position with what we got done defensively, but we just had a hard time knocking down shots tonight. Sometimes that’s going to happen. But yeah, I thought we battled for 40 minutes, and I’m really proud of them for that.

Iowa is a very good team. Obviously they’ve had a really special year, undefeated at home. What a great showing tonight, great atmosphere for them, and we knew it was going to be challenging. But thank you, I think our girls really competed hard for 40 minutes.

Q. Coach, Gustafson is probably going to get her production in most games, but how difficult or how much pressure did that put on you guys that Meyer performed the way she did today?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, you know, we said we didn’t feel like we could take away everything, and Megan just demands so much attention, and so the last thing we wanted to do is give up threes and easy touches inside. We felt like if they hit seven, eight, nine, ten threes and we were able to slow Megan down a little bit, we’d be willing to live with it.

Obviously everyone has had a hard time figuring it out this year. She’s a load. Great footwork, great hands. But she’s got a great supporting cast, and I think those girls really know their roles. They know what’s expected. And they just play such unselfish basketball, and they executed really well.

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Just when you look at statistically, I don’t know for sure, but I feel like it’s probably one of the lowest offensive outputs from Iowa this year, or right in the top one, two. I don’t know, they haven’t been in the 60s much. But we just had a hard time scoring.

Q. What are the emotions for you knowing that Sophie, Cierra and Lauren’s career is now officially over?
ROBIN PINGETON: I don’t know if there’s words to describe it. I don’t know that it’s set in quite yet. We felt really good coming into this game. I really liked where our team was at. We felt confident. We never even talked about this potentially could be the last game. I just think we liked our game plan. The girls really bought into it. We felt really, really good. You know, really there up until probably the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter did you start to feel like, okay, this might not work out the way we had hoped it would.

But those emotions I’m sure will come through in a little bit here. Very thankful. I think the biggest feeling that I have is gratitude and thankful that they made a decision to come to the University of Missouri and really help us elevate our program and put us on the map and put us on the national radar. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that they’ve invested. It’s really cool when you’ve got not only great basketball players but just incredible young ladies, so I’ve been blessed. I wish — I think Sophie is going to have a phenomenal career. I’m really excited for her. Just appreciate Cierra Porter coming back; Lauren Aldridge, juggling law school and basketball at this level is really challenging.

But just incredibly great kids, and they’ve impacted the program, and they’ve definitely impacted me personally.

Q. Robin, you kind of just said this, but can you think of any one player that’s impacted the program on a level that Sophie has, from on court, from how she’s helped the culture of the team and how she’s set you guys up for future success, as well?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, I mean, that’s a hard question because I don’t know — I don’t know other teams’ personnel and what that community support looks like. All I know is our players here at the University of Missouri, and just to see the way that this community has absolutely wrapped their arms around her, and she’s done the exact same thing back to them. She just pours into them. Anytime she had an opportunity to go out, meet and greet, take pictures, sign autographs, she was always the last one to leave after home games, which when you play 35 minutes a game you’re usually typically pretty exhausted. Win or lose, it didn’t matter, she was out there on that court signing autographs until that last person left.

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I think that’s pretty remarkable. So certainly talent-wise, one of the best of the best, right, all-time leading scorer, broke numerous records, and then just continued to build on the core values of our program and lived them out daily and I think has really done a great job helping our underclassmen helping understand what that looks like and what that means moving forward.

Q. It looked like there were some times you were having some trouble communicating with your players on the court. What kind of impact did the crowd and the environment have on your team’s play?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, really it definitely impacted it. It’s a loud environment. We’ve played in those environments, so I don’t know that — yeah, I don’t know, you’d have to ask the players. I don’t think it felt intimidating to them, but it was hard to communicate. Just because we’ve been in those environments before, but absolutely give Hawkeye fans a ton of credit. What a great showing, what a great environment. That’s pretty special, and you’ve got a team that’s had a special season and had a chance to go undefeated at home, and that doesn’t happen very often at this level.

Q. Given Sophie’s tough performance today, what can you say about Amber’s ability to keep you guys in the game, like you said, up until that six-minute mark in the fourth quarter?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, she hit some tough shots for us. Just had that aggressive mindset, made it hard on Sophie, just switching up between passing it around in the zone to triangle-and-two to man defense, and that’s what Iowa does. She just switch up their defense, so you can’t really get comfortable and in a flow. But I thought Amber really stepped up for us tonight. That was big. After I think kind of an up-and-down game against Drake, she started out of the gates really strong, and then kind of went silent for a while and finished strong, but I thought Amber really played an aggressive game for us tonight, and that was big.

Q. Iowa went on a couple runs there; what was the key to them being able to sustain those runs a couple different times?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, you know, it makes it really hard when you’re having a hard time scoring. Obviously go back and watch film as much as you’d just like to set it aside, that’s just kind of how I’m wired, and I felt like we got some good looks in that second half, and we just didn’t knock them down. But it’s hard when you’re giving up offensive rebounds and they get and-ones, they go to the free-throw line and then we’re just having a hard time scoring on the other end.

Again, a great team. You expect that. I thought in that first half it was a game of runs. We both went back and forth. They just had too much firepower there at the end, and we couldn’t get shots to fall.

Q. You talked about the struggles on offense; is there one thing you can kind of put your finger on? Do you think you guys were settling, just what they were doing defensively, or just there were good looks that didn’t go in?
ROBIN PINGETON: Yeah, I felt like in the third quarter we had some uncharacteristic kind of pull-up contested jump shots, but again, I’ll have to go back, but it felt like we got some really good looks that have gone down for us. We’ve been a pretty good shooting team this last month and a half, and again, you’ve got to give Iowa some credit. Just switching up their defenses as much as they did, they just make it really hard for teams, I think, to get comfortable.

But I felt like we got good looks. Probably needed to be more aggressive. I mean, we didn’t get to the free-throw line. I think we shot two free throws. I don’t think this box score is right. It says we didn’t shoot any, but Cierra Porter shot two. So obviously didn’t do a good enough job attacking to create those opportunities for us. I would say that’s probably the biggest takeaway.

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