At Missouri practice this week, third-year coach Kim Anderson took away his team’s uniforms and student assistants.
The cushy chairs in the Tigers’ locker room? They also disappeared after MU was upset Monday by North Carolina Central.
“These guys worked hard all week and they worked hard in white cotton T-shirts and black cotton shorts that we bought from a local department store,” Anderson said. “They didn’t wear Missouri gear all week, so I know how hard they worked and how bad they smelled during the week.”
That won’t be a problem moving forward, not after the Tigers survived 59-56 against Western Kentucky despite a seven-minute scoring drought down the stretch Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
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With the win, Anderson — who used a similar ploy during his tenure at Central Missouri and also didn’t wear team gear this week in practice — let the team to vote to have one of the three luxuries he’d stripped restored.
Practice jerseys will return as the Tigers, 4-3, prep for Tuesday’s game against Miami (Ohio).
“That’s a motivator, and I like it …,” freshman forward Willie Jackson said. “It wasn’t like he was trying to be disrespectful or pick on us. It’s just some things have to happen like that to really get you to understand.”
What was Anderson’s message?
“The message was to understand what you’ve got on your chest and the people that have put these jerseys on (and) that held this school at a high level,” Jackson said. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Despite another slow start, which Anderson ascribed to nervousness, and another frigid first-half shooting performance, Missouri regrouped to pull in front 33-30 at halftime.
Although, the crowd of 4,547 had little cheer for until Aaron Brown won $5,000 for a half-court swish during a halftime promotion, but the Tigers picked up the pace and provided more excitement early in the second half.
Around the 12-minute mark, freshman guard Frankie Hughes finished a fastbreak with a two-handed slam for a 52-42 lead and it looked as if Mizzou would cruise.
The Tigers still led 57-48 with 7 minutes remaining after a free throw by senior Russell Woods, but its offense — which finished 20 of 57 from the field, a 35.1-percent clip four days after shooting a dismal 25 percent in defeat — went ice cold again.
Mizzou was outscored 8-0 between Woods’ free throw and Cullen VanLeer’s two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining.
“It’s unacceptable to go 14 possessions without scoring,” Anderson said. “We drew up plays and we called plays and we made up plays. We got some decent shots; they just didn’t go in or we turned it over. We turned it over way too much — especially late in the game, we had some key turnovers.”
The Tigers’ last field goal came with 8:29 left, but the Hilltoppers weren’t able to pull ahead at any point.
“We’ve got to win the game when (the other team) doesn’t score in the last 8:29,” WKU coach Rick Stansbury said.
Fortunately for Mizzou, which won the rebounding battle 44-30 and forced 20 turnovers (though it committed 16), its effort in other areas didn’t waver.
“When stuff happens like that, that’s when you have to just make it up on the defensive end, and I thought we did a pretty good job of getting stops and getting rebounds and giving ourselves the best chance possible to win,” said sophomore forward Kevin Puryear, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
Western Kentucky, 3-5, which has now lost four straight games, pulled within 57-56 on a three-point play by senior guard Junior Lomomba, a Providence transfer, at the 1:36 mark but the comeback stalled there.
“It worked,” VanLeer said of Anderson’s tactic to make Mizzou earn back some amenities. “We got a win. Just hardnosed, that’s what it is. It’s a shirt and shorts, that’s what you get to practice in. It’s just a little bit different look than what the Mizzou gear has, and it doesn’t bother me. It just brings an old-school toughness about it that paid off today.”
Next up, Mizzou plays Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a chance to earn its student managers back and avoid shagging rebounds all week.
“We need the managers back,” Jackson said. “If I could have voted by myself, I would’ve taken the managers back over the practice gear. … The managers come in handy. We need them.”