COLUMBIA – When Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith reflects on Saturday’s overtime loss to Kansas, he says he is proud of the way his team played. But he is even more proud of the way the Tigers conducted themselves on the court.
“We handle ourselves with tremendous class,” Haith said. “These guys have done that all year.”
Iowa State (21-8, 11-5 Big 12)
at No. 7 Missouri (25-4, 12-4 Big 12)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ/96.7 FM
TV: KMIZ/Channel 17
The team’s senior leadership has helped define the way the team acts, but Haith recognized that there are some senior-laden teams that don’t carry themselves the way his team has, especially with this year’s transition to a new coaching staff and coaching philosophy to deal with.
A big part of the leadership has been senior Kim English, who has been “phenomenal in that regard,” Haith said.
Haith recruited English to play at Miami, so the two had an existing relationship before Haith’s move to Missouri. Haith said he was much harder on English from the beginning because he knew him.
“He’s responded unbelievably. Leadership stems from how guys act when you’re not around them,” Haith said. “You need that locker room guy, and I think Kimmie’s been that for this team.”
English said Haith changed the whole culture around the program, and leading the team has been easy because he just echoes the things Haith says.
“We’re a humble bunch. We don’t do a lot of gyrating on the court. We don’t do a lot of bragging after we make shots because we expect those shots to go in. And I’m a true believer of ‘The humble will be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled,’” English said.
Entering Missouri's game against Iowa State on Wednesday night, English hopes the Tigers don’t suffer a reverse of the team's game at Oklahoma State. Players’ emotions were running high after beating Baylor on the road, but then they “laid an egg” against the Cowboys.
“You don’t want to be so down after losing that you drop another one. So, we need to bounce back,” English said.
The team’s losses to Kansas State in Columbia and Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., have been the first back-to-back losses the team has suffered this season.
“I just told the guys in the locker room we’re not going to talk about it anymore. We’re not going to replay the plays. We’re not going to continue to dwell on what didn’t happen, what happened, what should have happened. We had the lead, man. We had the lead,” English said of the loss at Kansas, shaking his head slowly.
Missouri faces a challenge in playing Iowa State in its last home game of the season.
“I think I said this earlier in the year, they’re going to be really, really good,” Haith said. “We played them up there after Kansas State, I remember after the game I said, ‘Man, this team is good. We just beat a really good team, an NCAA tournament team.’ And they’ve proven that throughout the year.”
Iowa State is 21-8 this season and 11-5 in the Big 12 coming off a 65-61 road win Saturday at Kansas State.
Before the team tips off against Iowa State, English hopes there’s one thing that won’t happen during the senior night festivities.
“I just hope I don’t cry. That would be embarrassing. DeMarre (Carroll) cried like a baby,” English said. “I just pray that I do not cry.”