Missouri men's basketball team heads to hostile territory

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | 7:29 p.m. CST; updated 10:06 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Missouri's Marcus Denmon scored a career-high 27 points Tuesday against Georgetown in his native Kansas City. Denmon and the Tigers will be in less familiar territory Thursday when they play at Oregon at McArthur Court, one of the oldest on-campus college arenas still in use.

COLUMBIA — On Thursday, the Missouri men’s basketball team will play its fourth road game in 10 days. The Tigers went to Mexico and returned to Columbia before making a brief stop in Kansas City. Their most recent flight drops them at the doorstep of the Oregon Ducks.

While No. 9 Missouri (5-1) may be getting comfortable playing away from home, Thursday’s Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series game against Oregon (4-2), will be the Tigers’ first game in a truly hostile environment.

Up to this point, Missouri has been the crowd favorite.

Missouri’s first two road games were played in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Missouri beat Wyoming and La Salle to win the sparsely attended Cancun Challege. The few fans that were present, rooted for Missouri. According to Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri even recruited some new fans who held no prior knowledge of the team during their trip.

After returning to Columbia to beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mizzou Arena, Missouri made the short trip to Kansas City for a neutral location matchup against No. 16 Georgetown on Tuesday. The neutrality of the game became a running joke as soon as fans started filing in.

There was s strong showing of Missouri faithful. Of the 14,647 in attendance, the majority belonged to Missouri. They painted a black and gold landscape over the seats of the Sprint Center, drowning out any chance of a Georgetown crowd presence. The sparse blotches of Georgetown navy blue were only noticeable at the end of the game when Hoya fans were the only ones left celebrating.

“There’s nothing neutral about that,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said after Georgetown defeated Missouri 111-102 in overtime.

The Kansas City location was practically a homecoming for Missouri players Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon, Steve Moore and Jarrett Sutton, who all attended high schools in Kansas City, or the surrounding area.

Denmon scored as comfortably in the Sprint Center as he did at Hogan Prep during his high school years. The junior guard led Missouri, shooting his way to a career-high 27 points. Dixon, who played for Lees Summit West, scored all 17 of his points in the second half as Missouri built a four-point lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game. But, the Tigers couldn’t hold it.

Missouri didn't have long to dwell on its first loss of the season. Wednesday morning, the team boarded a plane for Eugene, Ore.

The Tigers will tip-off against the Ducks at 10 p.m. at historic McArthur Court. Built in 1927, the building is one of the oldest on-campus college arenas still in use. Soon, the Ducks will move into a much newer nest, the highly anticipated, $200 million Matthew Knight Arena. The state-of-the-art building has been increasingly gaining attention since its plans surfaced, and even more since pictures of a court surrounded by shadows of decorative trees were released. Oregon will finally get to play its first game there in January.

But Thursday, Missouri will be setting foot in the "Mac," or the "Pit" if you prefer. Both are affectionate nicknames for McArthur Court. Seats in the building extend almost straight up, giving the effect that the Oregon student section, known as the "Pit Crew," and all the other Duck supporters at the 9,087-seat arena are breathing down on the court.

And there’s nothing neutral about that.

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