COLUMBIA — You could hear them in the tunnel moments before the game, laughing, clapping, singing and smiling, and you would never guess why.
Alex Oriakhi was waddling like a chicken in front of his teammates, hands on his hips, bobbing his head, dancing an awkward dance that can only be described as "weird" from the lucky few who saw its debut.
Clap, clap-clap-clap, Hey!
He skipped and kicked and shook his hips, while his teammates laughed at and with the senior forward.
It’s a pregame dance that Oriakhi used to do at the University of Connecticut, the same school where he won a national championship, something that he claims hypes everyone up before a game.
On Saturday, it might have worked.
The No. 22-ranked Missouri men's basketball team breezed past the Vanderbilt Commodores 81-59 in front of a sold-out, hyped-up Mizzou Arena.
Maybe it was the chicken dance that pushed Missouri to make 11 three-pointers, to out-rebound Vanderbilt 40-18, to shoot 54.9 percent from the field, to lead the game by 29 points at the half.
Or maybe it wasn't.
Regardless, Oriakhi’s new moves set the tone for a game where it seemed like everything went Missouri’s way.
Jabari Brown led the team with 21 points, shooting 4-8 from behind the arc. Brown brought former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel to his feet multiple times as he applauded from his courtside seat.
Oriakhi had his seventh double-double of the season with 18 points and 12 rebounds, and shot 7-9 in the game.
Phil Pressey added 12 points and six assists, Keion Bell had 12 points and three steals, and Earnest Ross had nine points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Even the fans were getting involved. Senior Andrew Turpin swished the half-court shot for $5,000.
“I thought we played great,” coach Frank Haith said following the game. “You look at how well we shot the ball, but I will go to our defensive intensity in the first half. That was the key to our success.”
It was that kind of game for the Tigers (15-4, 4-2 in SEC), who are still playing without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who dressed Saturday but did not play. The team may have to play one more without him when they travel to LSU (10-7, 1-5 in SEC) on Wednesday.
But with the chicken dance, anything seems possible.
Following the game, Oriakhi laughed and shook his head when he realized someone else was watching his moves.
Will the waddling, bobbing, kicking, and dancing be mainstays for the remainder of the season? Is the chicken dance a good luck charm?
“If it helps us win like that…,” he said, before getting cut off.
“I hope not,” Bell said. “It’s terrible.”