By Matthew Fairburn
Columbia, Mo.— When Arkansas coach Mike Anderson made his way out of the tunnel and onto Norm Stewart Court on Tuesday night for the first time since leaving Missouri in 2011, he was greeted with a chorus of boos from the Tiger fans at Mizzou Arena.
As it turned out, the boos were the least of his problems, as Missouri (22-8 overall, 11-6 in the Southeastern Conference) dominated the game from the opening tip, sending Arkansas (18-12, 8-8) home with a 93-63 loss.
“They had a lot of things going in their direction, so you have to give them credit,” Anderson said after the game. “It was a great atmosphere.”
The atmosphere was made more emotional by a pre-game ceremony honoring Missouri’s three seniors: Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi and Keion Bell.
Bowers stole the show against the coach that recruited him to Missouri though. For the second straight game, Bowers finished with a double-double and paced his team with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
“This is was the way I wanted to go out my senior night,” Bowers said. “We got the win.”
The heightened excitement in the building affected the Tigers in the early going.
Missouri turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes, falling behind 7-5. But that was the only lead Arkansas would have all night, as it shot just 1-15 from the three-pointer line in the first half and was outrebounded by Missouri 26-9 heading into the break.
“You can’t get destroyed on the glass and win a game of this magnitude,” Anderson said.
The Tigers’ 26-point halftime lead only got bigger in the second half.
After turning the ball over five times in the first half, Phil Pressey cleaned up his mistakes and didn’t have a single turnover after the break. Jabari Brown, meanwhile, was steady from beyond the arc and finished the game with 23 points.
With each basket the Tigers made and each timeout Anderson took to compose the Razorback sideline, the sold-out crowd got louder and louder. The boos for Anderson turned into cheers for Missouri coach Frank Haith.
Chants of “Faith in Haith” persisted from the student section throughout the second half, with the loudest roar of the night reserved for the seniors as they checked out of the game for the final time at Mizzou Arena.
Haith said the game wasn’t anymore emotional than any other for him, despite a heated exchange between him and Anderson on the court in the first half of the game. Haith chalked it up as a miscommunication and said it’s just that time of year.
“It was just an intense game in terms of we needed to get a conference win,” Haith said. “It’s March, so everybody’s battling this time of year.”
Oriakhi, however, said that was as emotional as he’s ever seen his coach.
“Coach is an emotional guy and I definitely think we feed off that,” Oriakhi said laughing. “I looked at him on the side and I didn’t really recognize him- that was the most emotional I’ve ever seen him. But we feed off of it.”
The win capped off an undefeated season at home for Missouri, which improved the team to 32-1 at Mizzou arena under Haith.
Missouri’s final game of the season is on Saturday at Tennessee on Saturday. The game is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m. in Knoxville, Tenn.
Supervising editing for this story was done by Jared Jeffries