COLUMBIA — Nobody said a word, and there was no reason to.
They stared straight forward, blocking out the words of support from the concerned few who stood beside them in the tunnel that leads to and from the Missouri locker room.
Missouri, the No. 12 team in the country, was down 10 points at halftime to Southeast Missouri State.
The band began to play, and the players jogged out to the court. The fans, who booed the Tigers the last time they saw them before the end of the first period, gave a half-hearted cheer. They too had the break to think about what they had just seen. Some turned the corner, cheering their team, hoping for the best, while others sat motionless, still bitter.
The coaches followed, running out to the court, and then the cheerleaders, whose jolly expressions did nothing to alter the conflicting moods in Mizzou Arena. With only two minutes before the second half tipped off, they were all out on the court.
Except for him.
The two women holding the doors to the locker room began to turn off the lights, forgetting that coach Frank Haith still hadn’t left. The doors were in the midst of closing, when they quickly re-opened.
Haith walked through, a scowl on his face, his suit jacket off, the score 45-35 SEMO.
His team was not guarding the 3-point shot, giving up eight, and struggled to get into a defensive rhythm. Missouri had only attempted two free throws, missing both. The likelihood of a loss was a real possibility if something did not change.
The Tigers outscored SEMO 46-20 in the second half. They contested the 3-point shot, only giving up one, and drove hard to the basket, drawing 12 fouls which added 17 points. They boosted their shooting percentage from 40 percent to 51.9 percent. They won, 81-65.
Just one half later, it was a completely different scene in the tunnel.
Haith was the first one through, his suit jacket finding it’s way back to him as he walked briskly toward the locker room.
The players and coaches followed, each sporting a different type of smile. Keion Bell’s was huge as he screamed, “That’s a win baby,” while assistant coach Tim Fuller paired his with a shake of the head.
Players went out of their way to give high fives to fans, all of whom had forgotten just how upset they were 45 minutes ago.
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.