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Missouri-BYU Preview

(AP) – BYU coach Jeff Judkins planned to let his team walk around to check out the sights and sounds after Friday’s early practice in Austin, which happens to have the South by Southwest Musical Festival taking over most of its downtown.

”I want my girls to experience this town. When I played in the NBA, I didn’t sit in the hotel room on game day. I went and did some sight-seeing,” said Judkins, who spent five NBA seasons with four teams.

Missouri’s Robin Pingeton has a bit of a different approach ahead of her team’s first-round matchup Saturday with the seventh-seeded Cougars.

”I don’t know you really want to be out and about,” Pingeton said. ”We’ll watch film. … We’ll stay pretty dialed in.”

Anyone who watched the end of the Tigers’ season would probably agree with that approach. Missouri (21-9) comes into its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years having lost three straight, a skid that almost assured it would spend a fourth straight March in the NIT.

But Pingeton hasn’t kept a hard-line approach since her team’s 47-45 loss to Auburn in the SEC tournament March 3. She gave the Tigers five days off after that defeat, something she admits was out of her comfort zone.

”But I felt like we needed to do it and ever since we’ve come back we’ve looked really strong, really explosive, re-energized and refocused,” Pingeton said.

They’ll need to be against BYU (26-6), which had a stretch of 22 wins in 23 games before splitting its last four – including a 70-68 loss to San Francisco in the West Coast Conference championship game.

But the Cougars have the fifth-leading scorer in the nation in senior guard Lexi Rydalch, who averages 24.3 points. She’s one of a number of BYU players who expect things to get a little more physical than they’re used to seeing in the WCC – particularly after they struggled with that style while being blown out by Louisville in the round of 64 last season.

”The NCAA Tournament is more intense, more physical so we need to learn from that experience to be ready for this game,” Rydalch said.

BYU seldom faced that sort of physical matchup in league play. But the Cougars had an early season win over SEC power Texas A&M, and Pingeton noted BYU pushed the Aggies around.

”They dominated them. … I was impressed,” Pingeton said.

Pingeton’s team is heavily reliant on freshman guard Sophie Cunningham, who averaged a team-high 13.5 points and shot 50.2 percent from the field.

Missouri’s last NCAA Tournament win came in 2001, when it was a No. 10 seed and upset second-seeded Georgia to advance to the Sweet 16.

Rydalch has averaged 13.8 points in her five previous NCAA games.

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