Missouri basketball kicked off its season Friday by honoring the past during The Return to Hearnes.
Prior to the Tigers’ 73-48 exhibition romp against NAIA powerhouse Oklahoma City, Missouri’s 1993-94 team, which rolled unbeaten through the Big Eight and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, was honored in a special appearance at the Hearnes Center.
The crowd of 9,222 then watched senior Earnest Ross rack up double-double with 13 points and a team-high 12 rebounds in an easy Missouri win.
Not that it was quite as easy as Tigers coach Frank Haith would have liked.
“We didn’t shoot free throws well,” he said. “We missed layups. We only have turnovers in the first half, but ended up with 19. Those are all things we’re going to be able to fix. We just need to go practice.”
Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart thanked the crowd at halftime, which arrived with Missouri in front 43-24.
By midway through the second half, the Stars had trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 51-41 — close enough to prompt Haith, whose five-game suspension doesn’t begin until the regular-season opener Nov. 8, to call a timeout.
He wasn’t happy with Missouri’s intensity level and let the Tigers know.
“I thought we slacked off defensively, particularly the offensive rebounding,” Haith said. “I think they ended up with 14 offensive rebounds, and those are effort plays.”
He was much happier to see Missouri — which played most of the second half without junior Jordan Clarkson, a Tulsa transfer who took a knee to the thigh a few minutes after halftime — respond with a game-clinching 14-0 run.
Junior Jabari Brown finished with a game-high 15 points with five assists, while Clarkson had seven points and six assists with no turnovers in 21 minutes.
Freshman point guard Wes Clark added four assists, but he also committed six turnovers, while fellow freshman Jonathan Williams III drew raves for his 10-point, seven-rebound effort.
After Truman rappelled from the rafters in the pregame, 20-year-old highlights played on the scoreboard and the Hearnes Center’s decibel meters tickled 100 as the former Tigers and their families were introduced one by one.
Every player from the 1993-94 team returned except for Mark Atkins.
“It feels good to have everybody back and be back in the Hearnes Center,” said Melvin Booker, who was a senior on that team and its leading scorer (18.1 points a game). “For a minute, I almost teared up out there, because it brought back so many memories.”
Predictably, the crowd roared loudest when Booker was announced last, then roared just as loud when his son, Devin, was introduced.
Still, while the evening afforded an opportunity to look back, it was really about looking forward to the 2013-14 season.
“It’s going to be a fun year,” said Kelly Thames, a freshman on the 1993-94 team, who praised the current Tigers’ versatility and athleticism.