COLUMBIA — Letters painted on cardboard flip back and forth in the stands to spell Sydney Crafton's and Bailey Gee's names.
John Bowders, a civil engineering professor at MU, and his neighbor Jeff Zimmerschied like to display the players' names at the Missouri women's basketball team's home games. Gee, a junior guard for the Tigers who Bowders taught two years ago, usually has her name featured prominently.
Missouri Tigers (12-16, 4-10) at
No. 3 Baylor Bears (25-2, 12-1 Big 12)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
Missouri coach Robin Pingeton will be inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union's Hall of Fame on March 4. Pingeton played at Benton Community High School and Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School from 1983-86. She went on to post the scoring and rebounding records at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. The records still stand today.
"Bailey is a gift to academics," Bowders said. "She's the total person. She's an engineering student. We don't get many high-level athletes, very, very few. She's a dynamite kid."
Gee said she appreciates the support.
"He's been coming to my games since freshman year," said Gee, who only played one minute in the first half of Missouri's 63-59 loss Saturday to Colorado at Mizzou Arena. "It just shows how tight we are in civil engineering because it's so small."
Throughout the game, Bowders and Zimmerschied flipped the letters, not much bigger than 8-by-11 inch notebook paper and balanced on the seats in front of them. Black letters on a yellow backdrop spelling B-A-I-L-E-Y appeared when Gee got playing time, and yellow letters on a black backdrop spelling S-Y-D-N-E-Y showed up when Crafton played.
Bowders' season tickets put him and Zimmerschied directly across from Missouri's bench, and the names often function as encouragement for Missouri coach Robin Pingeton to play the two fans' favorite players. At halftime, they briefly muttered words of disappointment over Gee's playing time. But they are thrilled with Crafton's recent spell of strong performances.
"She's from Jeff City, local kid," Bowders said. "She was playing her heart out like three games ago. She seemed to do everything right. I didn't hear anyone yelling for her. She could just use a little bit of encouragement, so I made her a sign."
Although the men have yet to meet Crafton, the sophomore noticed the signs in warmups before the game.
"I thought it was great," Crafton said with a giggle. "Normally, they have Bailey on them. I saw S-Y-D-N-E-Y, and I'm like, 'What?'
"I think its just great that they actually take the time to do that. Unfortunately I didn't show it, but it did motivate me, the fact that people support you enough, and you want to get out here and show them how you appreciate that."
Crafton scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time.
Fans joined Bowders and Zimmerschied on their feet with a minute left and the Tigers leading 59-58. But the enthusiasm didn’t last long. A late 3-pointer from Colorado’s Britney Blythe put the Buffaloes in front, and they completed free throws to win the game.
Bowders and Zimmerschied, neighbors for 14 years in the Old Southwest neighborhood of Columbia who have attended Missouri women's basketball games together for three seasons, were the only fans in their section left standing as the final seconds wound off the clock. But Zimmerschied still had a smile on his face after the narrow loss.
"It's a good break from home," Zimmerschied said. "We get to sit down close and see all of the people. You go to a men's game, and you have to sit in the nose-bleed section. You go to a women's game, and you can get a better feel for the court."
Both men said they are not happy with women's basketball attendance. Missouri and Colorado fans combined to fill about half of the lower tier at Mizzou Arena. Bowders announced an incentive for his civil engineering students.
"I'll give extra credit in my classes," Bowders said. "There's only one more game though."