COLUMBIA – Another homecoming ruined.
Like so many Missouri alumni did last weekend, former Missouri player and coach Kim Anderson will leave Columbia with a loss.
Similarly, the University of Central Missouri coach watched a win that seemed improbable turn into a reality just to be ripped away as the clock wound down.
"Sometimes when you tell kids about playing a team like this, how good they are and how hard they play, they don't want to believe you," Missouri coach Frank Haith said.
Missouri handed Anderson and UCM a 92-79 loss on Friday in a game that was neck and neck for 35 minutes.
Missouri struggled for most of their final preseason tune-up against Division II UMC's zone defense and didn't pull away until consecutive Earnest Ross 3-pointers with four minutes to play sparked a 11-0 run.
"We gave them a little bit of a test," Anderson said. "I was very proud. I thought we hung in there with them."
Anderson, who was named Big 8 Conference Player of the Year in 1976-77 at Missouri and coached for eight years under Norm Stewart, watched as his undersized squad led by as many as eight points with 10:50 to play. The Mules led 45-43 at the half and consistently irritated the taller, stronger Tigers by forcing them to shoot from the outside.
Anderson said its a strategy he rarely employs.
"I played for Coach Stewart so we don't zone very often," he said. "If we were going down, we were going down in flames. We were going to make them shoot the three."
When it worked, it was Anderson's saving grace. Once it stopped working, it burned the Mules.
Ross connected on four 3-pointers. His biggest two came on pick-and-pop plays with Jabari Brown that ignited a half-capacity crowd.
"It was nice being up but I knew they would make a run," Anderson said. "We couldn't fight off that run."
Ross finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Brown had 19 points and Jordan Clarkson scored 24. The three accounted for almost three-quarters of all the Tiger offense, creating a scorecard logjam that Clarkson said he isn't worried about.
"Coach wants us to go out there, be aggressive and attack the basket," said Clarkson, who will play his first regular season game in 20 months when Missouri opens the season on Friday against Southeastern Louisiana. "Its not always going to be us three. We have a talented team."
Freshman forward Johnathan Williams showed some of his talent by grabbing 13 rebounds. Haith played Williams and fellow freshman Wes Clark extensively while giving scarce minutes to junior Keanau Post and sophomores Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Jankovic. Haith said some of his bigger men had trouble matching up with the undersized UMC front court.
"It's a message," Haith said. "We're a big team but when you play a team that is small – you saw Ryan get into foul trouble, Keanau get into foul trouble – its hard to play against those guys."
Anderson, who is listed at 6-foot, 7-inches himself, cited Missouri's height advantage down low as one of the main reasons the game swung away from his favor. The Tigers won the battle of the boards 48-30, but only held a three-rebound advantage at the half.
But the loss did not devastate him, like the football loss devastated so many in last weekend's Homecoming game. Anderson talked about the game with a smile.
"You get up to play Mizzou – don't think I wasn't excited to come in here and play," Anderson said. "I'm looking forward to following them this year. My alma mater, you know?"
Supervising editor is Nina Pantic.