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Missouri men's basketball team braces for unique night

Monday, March 4, 2013 | 10:29 p.m. CST; updated 11:02 p.m. CST, Monday, March 4, 2013
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson shouts to his bench during the second half of a basketball game against Missouri in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 16. Arkansas defeated Missouri 73-71.

COLUMBIA — Things will be different at Tuesday night's men's basketball game at Mizzou Arena.

Missouri's pregame routine won't be the same. The 15 minutes before tipoff, a time usually used for coach Frank Haith's final instructions to his team, will be interrupted by ceremonies honoring guard Keion Bell and forwards Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi on their final home games as Tigers.

Haith says it will be a challenge.

"It's hard to just handle it because it's different," Haith said Monday. "… You have your parents out there. It's a soft moment, an emotional moment, and now you have to go play."

Haith said he planned to address the situation after Monday's practice and make sure his players know what to expect.

The thoughts of playing one last time on Norm Stewart Court is something Oriakhi said he tries not to think about too much. Oriakhi is in a special position, having been a Missouri player for less than a year.

"I really don't know. I can't tell you until I'm out there, but I know it'll definitely be emotional," Oriakhi said. "Like I said this place has been very good to me. I don't know how I'll handle it, but I'll just focus on winning."

Senior night is just one thing that will be on the Missouri players' minds. The Tigers will be hosting Arkansas, and former Missouri coach Mike Anderson will be returning to Mizzou Arena for the first time since leaving the Tigers in 2011 to became the Razorbacks' head coach.

Both Haith and Anderson are downplaying Anderson's return.

"We're playing Arkansas," Haith said. "Simple as that. I'm not worried about any of the story lines. I mean I respect it. I understand it. But I'm not prone to be involved or worried in any of that stuff."

Anderson said something similar on the Southeastern Conference teleconference Monday.

"It's not about Mike Anderson and Missouri," Anderson said  "It's about Arkansas versus Missouri. It's an SEC game, and it's an important game."

Anderson also said he is expecting a negative response from the Missouri fans at Tuesday's game.

"You're gonna have some people that may not agree with (my  departure)," Anderson said. "Sometimes, those are the most vocal ones."

The Razorbacks defeated Missouri 73-71 with a late-game comeback in their last matchup Feb. 16 in Fayetteville. But Missouri is aiming to complete an undefeated regular season Tuesday at Mizzou Arena with its 17th home victory.


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Comments

Rich C. March 5, 2013 | 11:49 a.m.

Excited to see what reception Anderson received at tonight's game. Personally, I won't boo. I'll take joy in the thrashing that Arkansas is going to get when they meet the Mizzou team that shows up at home.

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