Terrence Phillips created a scene Wednesday at the University of Missouri student center.
“I got on top of the chair, obviously because I’m a little short,” said Phillips, a sophomore point guard on the Tigers’ basketball team, “and I was like, ‘Hey.’ I got everybody’s attention and kind of scared everybody for a moment, but I got everybody’s attention.”
Phillips and teammates Willie Jackson, a freshman forward, and Kevin Puryear, a sophomore forward, were passing out free student-section tickets as a promotion with the marketing department for Mizzou’s game against No. 20 Arizona at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
“I was there for moral support, signing posters and giving them out, telling people to go get free tickets from Terrence and Willie,” sophomore forward Kevin Puryear, a Blue Springs South graduate, said. “That was pretty cool.”
Students had to answer some Tigers-related trivia for a free pass to the game, where the first 500 students also receive free Chick-fil-A sandwiches, according to third-year coach Kim Anderson.
“We just had fun with it at the end of the day,” Phillips said. “It was about getting out in the community and getting to know our fellow students.”
But Phillips and Jackson didn’t stop there.
“We were sitting there and I go, ‘Willie, let’s go buy some tickets and go give them away,’ ” Phillips said. “We kept doing it. I don’t know how many we bought, but we kept doing it. It’s just all about getting them there and seeing students in the student section.”
Phillips wasn’t sure how many of the $10 tickets he and Jackson purchased at their own expense, but said it was “a lot.”
The Tigers believe a rowdy student section and a big crowd are keys in the quest for an upset and the first win against a ranked team in more than three years.
Mizzou has lost 14 straight against ranked opponents since an 80-71 victory Dec. 7, 2013, against then-No. 18 UCLA — a win that was later vacated as part of self-imposed sanctions announced in January amid an NCAA investigation.
“I know when we go on the road and we see the student sections, it’s a hostile environment …,” Phillips said. “It would mean the world just to have a crowd come out this Saturday, especially with a top 20-team coming in here. … We want it to feel like ‘The Zou’ in here. We want to make it a hostile place to play in.”
Attendance has become an ongoing issue for Missouri, which has drawn an average crowd of 4,166 for five home games this season.
The Tigers ranked 85th in the country, averaging 6,294 for 17 home games last season.
It marked the third straight decline since Mizzou’s attendance peaked at 11,996 per game during 2012-13 season.
That was good enough for the 29th nationally among Division I programs, but the Tigers saw attendance tumble to 8,856 during 2013-14 — Frank Haith’s last season with the program — and fall further to 8,064 in 2014-15 — Anderson’s debut season.
Mizzou only drew two crowds larger than 8,000 last season — against North Carolina State in December and against Tennessee for the #RallyforRhyan game.
“I know our guys would really like to have a big crowd,” Anderson said. “But if you win games, people will come. I’ve been around the state a long time. It’s the Show-Me State. … I would love to see more people at the games … but I am thankful for the ones that do come and I appreciate their support.”
He knows the early start time against Arizona isn’t ideal, but took pain to point out a silver lining.
“The good news is it will be done by 1 o’clock and you’ve got the whole day ahead of you,” Anderson said. “If you want to go hunting, fishing, whatever you want to do, shopping, you’ve got plenty of time to do that.”
On the injury front, Anderson said freshman forward Reed Nikko is recovering well from a sprained ankle, but likely won’t be ready to play against Arizona.