COLUMBIA – As the Tigers players exited the court, the only sound that filled the tunnel was the patter of basketball shoes on concrete.
This would have been the first time a Missouri men’s basketball team had earned a 26-2 record. Instead, the Tigers solemnly exited the court Tuesday night with their first home loss of the season at Mizzou Arena. Kansas State defeated Missouri more than a month ago in Manhattan, Kan..
At halftime, the Tigers trailed the Wildcats by 10 points. As they made their way to the locker room at the break, junior guard Michael Dixon jogged with his head down, towel hanging from his left hand.
Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe and senior guard Marcus Denmon walked side by side, not a word filling the space between them.
Assistant coach Ernie Nestor had his arm around sophomore guard Phil Pressey, who had wide eyes and outstretched arms as he tried to make sense of what was happening. .
Before re-entering the arena for the second half, the team huddled up. Words of encouragement floated among the team members. But when they walked out after the game, only looks of stone appeared on their faces.
The final buzzer sounded. The scoreboard read 78-68. Michael Dixon was the first out of the arena, jogging again. Missouri head coach Frank Haith walked briskly by himself.
"We didn’t punch back early. When you do that, playing good teams is an uphill battle all the way. It just hurt," senior guard Kim English said.
English was far removed from the elation that filled him after the senior reached his 100th career win against Baylor on Feb. 11. That day he went bounding through the tunnel, bellowing, "We’ve got 100 of them."
Tuesday night, he kept his head down, eyes locked on the concrete floor.
During the game, the Tigers were held to 38 percent shooting and dealt with foul trouble. English and senior forward Steve Moore had five fouls each by the end of the game, and Phil Pressey had four.
"We are 25-3. We are 12-3 in the conference. I’m proud of these guys. We want to win every game, and it does taste bad when you lose," Haith said.