COLUMBIA — Their coach took his jacket off and needed to be held back, lest he enter the personal space of the other coach, who was booed by a sellout crowd like he had spit on the living room carpet. Fans and even at least one former player took to social media to tell the world how they felt.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
Missouri played its best basketball game of the season Tuesday, a 93-63 slapping of Arkansas that might be the schools happiest moment so far in the Southeastern Conference. Theres nothing quite like stomping the school from the next state over, especially one you never thought much of anyway, and, well, lets just get this out there:
With their beautiful mutual hatred of Kansas confined to message boards for the moment, the Tigers were down a good rival until Tuesday night.
Whens the last time you saw a college head coach have to be restrained from his counterpart in the middle of a game?
Miscommunication, Mizzou coach Frank Haith said. Im emotional. I was emotional for my team. I was encouraging my team, and I think he thought I was saying something else.
Haith said he tried to explain that afterward to Anderson who, for his part, said hed talk to Haith and continued to annoy Mizzou fans by doing everything but take full credit for the 52 wins and fan passion thats filled the last two years here. Whatever. After it was all over, Laurence Bowers the star of his own Senior Night with 24 points and 11 rebounds said he didnt want to talk about the coach he had signed with at MU.
This was a college game with genuinely bad feelings, and there is no more passionate kind of sports. Arkansas beat Mizzou two weeks ago in a rival-worthy atmosphere in Fayetteville, and the Tigers did the same thing here except much louder, and much more thoroughly. Alex Oriakhi said hed never seen Haith this emotional, joking that he didnt recognize his coach.
Some of the on-court mean-mugging is specific to this game, to this situation. Anderson they call him Suitcase Mike around here now left Mizzou two years ago via a news release. The fans he left behind felt abandoned, even angry. Same with the players.
They rallied behind a new coach none of them had chosen out of high school and played some of the most efficient and effective basketball in the country last year. Won the last Big 12 tournament theyll ever play for before a wretched loss to Norfolk State in the first round of March Madness.
They take a lot of pride here in those 30 wins, so you can imagine how it hits them when Anderson essentially takes full credit for the success and implies he couldve taken the team to the Final Four.
You might say the response was a different kind of 40 minutes of hell for Anderson.
This was a two-hour beatdown. Dunks and ally-oops and quite possibly the best defense MU has played all season. The Tigers led by double digits nine minutes in, and by 26 at halftime. On one end of the court, you would see Bowers dunking. On the other, youd see someone from Arkansas heaving a prayer at the end of the shot clock.
This was a toxic mix of emotion, especially on MUs side. Bowers is a beloved figure here 1,202 points, five years, two coaches and one major knee surgery will do that so there wouldve been loud moments no matter what. Add the fact that theyre playing against the coach who left them in the cold two years ago, and those moments will stretch out.
Put it all together, and you have the loudest night at Mizzou Arena since the Tigers beat their old rival. Their new rivalry doesnt have the same history, or unabashed disrespect. But at least for one night, they closed the gap a little bit.
To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow twitter.com/mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.