TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A fed-up Robin Pingeton crumpled up a piece of paper and hurled it under the bench.
Official Laura Morris immediately called a technical foul on Missouri’s coach. For all intents and purposes, the Tigers’ season was over, and Pingeton had seen enough.
Another comeback wasn’t in the cards for 25th-ranked MU.
Missouri, which overcame a 13-point deficit to beat South Florida on Friday, was never afforded that opportunity against Florida State. The Tigers hampered their chances to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001 by committing 23 turnovers, including eight gaffes from senior point guard Lianna Doty.
Third-seeded Florida State rolled to a 77-55 victory over sixth-seeded Missouri on Sunday in front of 4,084 fans at the Donald L Tucker Civic Center.
The Tigers (22-11) saw their season end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. The Seminoles (27-6) advanced to their third consecutive Sweet 16 and will meet No. 2 seed Oregon State (31-4) on Saturday in regional semifinal in Stockton, Calif.
“It was one of those games where we just got sped up,” Cierra Porter said. “I don’t think that we were underprepared or that they threw anything at us that we didn’t expect. … I don’t think it was a lack of effort. Everybody left what they had on the court tonight.”
MU, which led the Southeastern Conference with 8.4 made 3-pointers per game, had a hard time hitting the mark in its motion offense. FSU was stride for stride with Missouri’s outside shooters, especially in the first quarter.
Western Illinois torched the Seminoles for 11 3-pointers in Friday’s late game, but the Tigers only made 1 of 8 attempts from beyond the arc in the opening quarter.
“It was a lot more physical with this team, so it was an adjustment,” said Sierra Michaelis, who netted 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. “We pretty much got the looks we wanted. It was a matter of knocking them down.”
Missouri fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first half before Sophie Cunningham, who finished with a team-high 17 points, connected for a 3 to halt her team’s 7:12 drought without a field goal. About a minute later, Amber Smith scooped in a layup, and the Tigers used an 8-0 run to keep the Seminoles within striking distance.
MU trailed 32-27 at the break.
“We had just battled back from a bit of a deficit, and we just had to do what we’re doing,” Lindsey Cunningham said. “We had finally calmed down and were getting shots on the offensive end that were good shots for our team. … We were playing pretty good basketball going into the half.”
The wheels fell completely off in the third quarter. The Tigers committed five turnovers in the first two minutes of the quarter, and FSU broke the game wide open.
“Hindsight is really hard right now,” said Doty who on Saturday preached about the importance of limiting turnovers. “There are so many emotions, so it’s hard for me to really articulate what exactly happened. … They did a good job scouting us. They took away the first option. We had to execute our second option better.”
Entering Sunday’s game, the Seminoles’ opponents had averaged 19.8 turnovers per game.
With Sophie Cunningham’s hand in her face, Brittany Brown drilled a 3. On the next possession, Shakayla Thomas swatted away Porter’s layup attempt. Leticia Romero sank another contested 3, and FSU carried a 56-37 lead into the final quarter.
“I feel like we get hyped off the smallest things,” said Thomas who posted a game-high 20 points. “It was a good turning point with the block” on Porter.
The Seminoles outscored Missouri 24-10 in the third quarter.
Pingeton let her frustrations show in opening minute of the fourth quarter. After Morris whistled Missouri for three fouls in 19 seconds, Pingeton tossed a projectile. She grew more incensed, and assistant coach RaeShara Brown and a few of MU’s players held her back.
“Obviously, it was very frustrating,” Pingeton said when asked about Morris’ quick whistle in the fourth quarter.
Missouri’s coach paused for a few seconds and repeated her previous quote.
“Obviously, it was very frustrating,” she said.
Shortly after the technical was assessed, Lindsey Cunningham gave Pingeton a high-five.
“She’s passionate,” said Lindsey Cunningham who was a member of a three-player senior group that won 80 games together. “That’s something I respect about her.”
The Tigers shot 37.5 percent from the field and were called for 27 fouls compared to 17 for Florida State.
It was the second consecutive season in which the home team celebrated a berth into Sweet 16 at the expense of MU. Missouri lost to Texas last season in Austin in the second round.
In the weeks leading up to the Big Dance, the Cunningham sisters were asked to reflect on their playing days together. They deflected any questions about the end to the journey.
But, reality hit hard when the final horn sounded.
Lindsey and Sophie Cunningham greeted their mother, Paula, behind Missouri’s bench, and the three of them exchanged a hug. Sophie had her right arm draped around Lindsey as the sisters walked back to the locker room.
They shared a few words.
“It’s hard,” said Sophie Cunningham, who was fending off tears in the postgame press conference. “We have been through a lot.”
“As” the clock “hit 3, 2, 1, it was hard. I’m so grateful for the journey that we had together,” an emotive Lindsey Cunningham said in the locker room.