It might not approach the fervor of the Missouri-Kansas rivalry, but there is no love lost between the Tigers and Arkansas.
The Missouri men’s basketball team will play host to the Razorbacks at 7 tonight at Mizzou Arena.
“They’re a team that we’re familiar with in some respects just because they’re close,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s always a great game.”
The matchup has spawned some heated contests in the past, and not only because of the Razorbacks’ 27-14 victory against the Missouri football team in last year’s Independence Bowl. The enmity goes back much further.
In 1994, members of the Antlers, an MU student fan group, spattered then-Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson with blood from a butchered hog as he got off the team bus. Richardson complained the blood ruined his $900 suit. Arkansas bought out Richardson’s contract in 2002 and hired Stan Heath, who also enjoys wearing nice suits.
Perhaps part of the rivalry stems from the numerous similarities between the two teams.
Missouri heavily recruited two Arkansas standouts, sophomore forward Olu Famutimi and freshman center Steven Hill. Famutimi and Hill made commitments to Arkansas after visiting Missouri and meeting several times with Snyder.
The Razorbacks’ 10-year-old arena was built thanks to a $15 million contribution from Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton, for whom it is named. Missouri’s brand new arena was built thanks to a $25 million contribution
from Walton’s son-in-law and daughter Bill and Nancy Laurie, and until recently was named for his granddaughter Paige Laurie. Missouri changed the named after Paige Laurie was accused of academic misconduct at the University of Southern California.
Arkansas beat the Tigers 120-68 in their first meeting in Bud Walton Arena in 1993. That Missouri team went on to win the Big 8 Conference championship. Tonight will be the first game between the teams in Missouri’s new home, and the Tigers are hoping for a similar result at their place.
“I’ve heard for years about when we went down to Arkansas and had that tough game and came back and went undefeated in the Big 12,” Snyder said. “I’d love for this team to use this game to try to find itself a little more. It’s a very special game. I don’t know if we look like a team that can pull that off and beat anybody by four. I’d be happy to beat someone by point-four.”
They might be seeking to return to that distant glory, but the Tigers (4-3) are trying to put the recent past behind them after a series of early season losses.
“We’ve been trying hard to get better,” freshman guard Jason Horton said. “We’re really trying to grind it down defensively, and I think we starting to progress on how well we can defend. Arkansas looks like a pretty good team so it’s going be a big test for us.”
Missouri has lost to Davidson, Creighton and Houston. Arkansas’ (5-1) only loss this season came Saturday at the hands of No.1 Illinois (6-0).
“It’s a heck of challenge for us,” Snyder said. “They are a very good team.”