COLUMBIA — Perhaps the only sound more common than an array of boos cascading down inside Mizzou Arena on Thursday night was the blow of the whistle a split-second before what prompted the booing.
Fifty total fouls. Seventy-five total free throw attempts.
While the fans voiced their displeasure with the tightly officiated matchup — both loudly and often — Missouri coach Frank Haith wasn’t surprised by the high whistle total.
“The way Arkansas plays, it’s aggressive,” Haith said. “We had like the mentality of ‘He comes at me, I go at him.' We were going to attack, and it was going to be that kind of game.”
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson saw it differently.
“It was a game that was pretty disrupted with all the fouls on the floor,” Anderson said.
Haith agreed that the calls led to a choppy game but thought the officiating was fair in the end.
“There was a lot of whistles and they called them both ways,” Haith said. “They shot the same amount of free throws we shot, so it does make it difficult to get in any kind of rhythm.”
Missouri shot one more free throw (38) than Arkansas (37), but capitalizing on those attempts from the line helped give Missouri a 86-85 victory and keep its chances of securing an at-large NCAA Tournament bid alive.
Missouri (17-7, 5-6 Southeastern Conference) made its first 23 attempts from the free-throw line and finished 34-of-38. Arkansas (15-9, 4-7) converted 29-of-37.
“We had the right guys going to the line today. All those guys are shooting pretty good from the line,” Haith said. “We’re a good 3-point shooting team, but we can also drive the ball, and I think it’s something we preach.”
Missouri was just 4-17 from behind the 3-point line, and star junior guards Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson combined for just one shot from beyond the arc.
But rather than let that deter them offensively, MU’s two best players became more aggressive, opting to drive toward the basket instead of force outside shots. The aggression led to the free throw attempts, and the duo scored 25 of its 52 combined points from the foul line.
“When we have games that we don’t get to the free-throw line, I think that’s quite unusual,” Haith said. “We have a team that can get to the line and attack off the bounce; that’s who we are and that’s how we play.”
Anderson had a message for his team after the game: “We didn’t lose this game; we just ran out of time.”
But Missouri won the game when the clock wasn't ticking.