Frank Haith, like most in Mizzou Arena last night, wanted to punch Mike Anderson in the face. Anderson was game for a brawl, flashing a smug smile towards Haith that seemed to say, “Bring it on.” It was Haith vs. Anderson Part II and Missouri was not going to let the judges decide this one.
“I looked at him on the sideline and I didn’t really recognize him,” Alex Oriakhi said of Haith. “That was the most emotion I’ve ever seen out of him, but we fed off it.”
Arkansas had no response for all the head shots Missouri threw at them. The Tigers were draining threes, dominating the boards, and crushing any and all semblances of hope the Razorbacks could generate. Missouri was faster, stronger, quicker, and more prepared. They owned the paint, pressured the shooter, and responded to every feeble punch Arkansas could manage to throw.
The result? A 93-63 bludgeoning of Anderson’s Razorbacks. It was a total and complete knockout.
“If you saw the game starting off, you’d say, ‘Oh OK, these guys are coming to play,’” Anderson said. “We did some good things attacking the basket, knocking some shots down, creating some turnovers, but it didn’t last long enough.”
Laurence Bowers delivered the biggest blows, scoring 24 points on 10-13 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds, blocking two shots, and forcing a steal. Jabari Brown followed his lead with 23 points, while Alex Oriakhi had 10 points and eight rebounds.
The proof was in the numbers that staggeringly favored Missouri. 58 percent (29-50) from the field…48 to 20 rebound margin… 70 percent from the free throw line (28-40) to 38.5 percent (5-13)… 50 percent from three (7-14) to 24 percent (6-25). It was a complete inhalation.
Anderson put his own twist on the game by suggesting he beat himself through the players he brought to Missouri.
“I’m trying to beat them in the place that I brought them to,” Anderson said. “That’s the part that’s kind of, ‘Oh man, something ain’t right about this.’ But at the same time, they’ve done well.”
Emotion was running high in Columbia not just because Missouri difficult loss in Fayetteville but also because of statements like the one above. Anderson has been adamant that he remade Missouri basketball after his predecessor Quinn Snyder destroyed it. He points to players like Bowers and Phil Pressey who he brought to Missouri along with the Big 12 Tournament championship and the Elite Eight he led them to in 2009. Anderson believes he left a Final Four contender for Haith to thrive on.
Missouri fans do not see it that way. The program was left without recruits and a roster that was senior laden. While the prospects for the 2011-2012 season looked solid, most feared for the future of the program. They blamed Anderson for taking players like BJ Young, who scored 27 points in the loss, with him to Arkansas and leaving Missouri with nothing. Anderson preached “family” only to bolt for greener pastures.
This made Tuesday night’s win all the more satisfying for Missouri fans.
For Anderson and Haith, though, things may just be getting started as video showed the postgame hand shake was anything but friendly.
Missouri will travel to Tennessee on Saturday in search of their first marquee road win. The Volunteers desperately need a victory to stay in the NCAA tournament discussion. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will air on ESPN.