COLUMBIA — She screamed one word, and you could hear. Mizzou Arena was quiet enough to hear her reaction.
He lay, wincing on the baseline of the court, gripping his right knee. Not the knee in which he tore his ACL last year, that ended his senior season before it even started, that he rehabbed for over six months.
Laurence Bowers was gripping his good knee.
A stadium that was once vibrant was now silent, a six-point lead over Alabama with 6:19 to play the furthest thought from every fan’s mind.
“No,” the fan screamed.
A trainer quickly jogged on to the court, and helped Bowers off, and for at least a minute, fans had to choose. Pay attention to the game on the other side of the court, or watch their beloved leading scorer in pain on the bench.
Moments later, he limped toward the tunnel to the locker room, walking through the slim opening between the black curtains.
Bowers was silent, head down. An usher quickly gripped the curtains tightly together.
“I think Phil (Pressey) fell on him,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said following the game. “I think he spun and fell on him, and hit him on the side of the leg.”
On the other side of the curtains, Bowers quickly tried to test his knee. He jogged. He cut. He limped on the tiled floor. He laid on a table, the trainer checking his knee, muffled cheers sneaking through the curtains as the Tigers continued on without their captain.
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Pressey said following the game.
After five minutes, the curtains opened, and Bowers limped back toward the bench. The fans cheered, slightly relieved, but moments later, he limped back through the tunnel.
“It looks like an MCL sprain, maybe,” Haith said. “But we don’t know the extent of it, and we’ll look at it tomorrow.”
Bowers, a fifth-year senior, a veteran leader, a vital member of the No. 10-ranked team in the nation and the leading scorer (16.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game), will have an MRI on his knee Wednesday.
“Well, we’re concerned when any of our guys get hurt. It’s part of the game,” Haith said, looking down, already prepared to answer the question. “We’re very concerned, absolutely.”
When the buzzer sounded, Bowers, who scored 16 points before the injury, came limping out of the locker room to join his teammates. The Tigers won 84-68, their first Southeastern Conference win, a game that was nationally televised on ESPN.
They shook hands with Alabama, and jogged toward the tunnel. There were no smiles. No high fives. No words. No celebration from the team that was now 12-2.
They jogged together toward to the locker room with blank expressions on their faces, their captain limping along.