Sophie Cunningham's last-second layup helps Mizzou stun No. 6 South Carolina


COLUMBIA, Mo. -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said she didn't think the past seven days -- which started with a loss at UConn on Monday and ended with a loss at Missouri on Sunday -- was an indication of a team that was emotionally weary.

Maybe not, but the Tigers' 62-60 upset of No. 6 South Carolina at Mizzou Arena was the kind of game that left one team soaring and the other looking like it was going to be a very long trip back home to the other Columbia in the SEC.

It also sent shock waves through the SEC standings and Charlie Creme's Bracketology. The loss drops the Gamecocks into second place in the league at 12-2 behind Mississippi State, which is 13-1 after beating Texas A&M on Sunday. The Bulldogs are seeking their first SEC title.

And as for the projected No. 1 overall seeds in the NCAA tournament, Creme is now slotting Notre Dame -- which survived 85-80 at Syracuse on Sunday -- into one of the top spots along with UConn, Baylor and Mississippi State. South Carolina drops to a No. 2 seed in Creme's projection.

Sophomore Sophie Cunningham's layup with six-tenths of a second left decided Mizzou's victory, but a lot went right for the gritty Tigers before that to pave the way for her heroics.

They outrebounded South Carolina 34-26 and held Gamecocks senior center Alaina Coates to just two points -- on her lone shot from the field -- and three rebounds before she fouled out. Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray struggled from the field, going a combined 7-of-24.

A'ja Wilson was the only South Carolina player who was on point offensively, going 9-of-11 from the field and finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. But Wilson can't do it all by herself, and that has to be a concern for the Gamecocks the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Missouri has dealt with some difficult injuries this season and had another Sunday when Sophie's older sister, senior Lindsey Cunningham, got hit in the head in the third quarter.

She passed concussion protocol tests and returned to the game late in that quarter. But coach Robin Pingeton said she could tell quickly that Lindsey Cunningham wasn't really OK. Lindsey left for the rest of the game, but she was watching from just outside the court as Sophie sealed the upset with a driving layup.

"It was a little bit of extra motivation," Sophie said in regard to wanting to get the win for her injured sister.

For Missouri, this was one of the most notable victories in Pingeton's seven seasons. It guarantees the Tigers -- 19-9 overall and 9-5 in the SEC -- their first winning record in league play since Missouri moved to the SEC in 2012-13. But the victory is even bigger historically.

It means for just the fifth time in the last 27 seasons -- dating back to 1990-91 -- the Tigers will have a winning conference record. That includes their time in the Big Eight, and then the Big 12.

The last time the Tigers had a winning league record was when they finished fourth in the Big 12 in 2005-06 at 10-6. Missouri went to the NCAA tournament that season but didn't return to the Big Dance until last year, when the Tigers advanced to the second round.

"I'm happy for our fan base and this community. And really happy for our players," Pingeton said. "Every year, we continue to move the needle in the right direction."

The Tigers are still in the hunt to be one of the top four seeds in the SEC tournament and advance straight to the quarterfinals. They are at home Thursday against Mississippi, and then finish at Alabama on Feb. 26.

A last-second 59-58 loss to the Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena on Jan. 8 irritated the Tigers at the time, but it might have served a greater purpose. Motivated Missouri has won 8-of-11 since, and the Tigers feel they've learned something from each loss, too.

But have the Gamecocks done the same? We'll see. South Carolina is at Texas A&M on Thursday (SEC Network, 9 p.m. ET) and at home against Kentucky on Feb. 26 (ESPNU, 2 p.m. ET). Mississippi State finishes at Kentucky on Thursday and at home vs. Tennessee on Feb. 26 (ESPN2, 4 p.m. ET).

South Carolina holds a tiebreaker with Mississippi State -- the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs on Jan. 23 -- should they finished tied in the standings. But right now, South Carolina has to focus on trying to regroup a little after what surely has been a difficult week.

"It's life in the SEC," Staley said after Sunday's loss. "It's what we signed up for. We rebounded well from Connecticut, and we played well against [Vanderbilt on Thursday, an 82-51 win at home]. I still think we're in a good place."