What Missouri fans will see tonight isn’t a finished product. It probably won’t even be close.
After almost three weeks of practice, the Tigers will get their first chance to play coach Mike Anderson’s up-tempo style of basketball against a team other than themselves. Other than a Tigers win, Anderson has only remedial expectations.
“I want them to go out and play hard,” Anderson said. “Play defense and be unselfish.”
Although tonight’s game is only an exhibition, it is an important milestone for Anderson’s team. After months of early-morning conditioning sessions and intra-squad scrimmages, the Tigers will get to play against a team other than themselves. Anderson will also get a chance to evaluate his players’ performance against another style of play.
“It will give me an opportunity to see everyone under the lights, so to speak,” Anderson said. “We’ll see if we can take some of the things we’ve been working on and execute them. I think it will probably be a process because the nerves will be going. At the same time, once they break that sweat, we’ll see if we can get the guys to look like a basketball team.”
Tonight’s game against Missouri-Rolla shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Last season, the Division-II Miners finished 2-25. On Wednesday, UMR lost its first preseason game of the year 97-71 to Arkansas State. Still, there could be times tonight when the Tigers don’t look too much better than their opponent.
“The ball might be going out of control, maybe into the stands,” guard Matt Lawrence said. “Hopefully we’ll get it together and use it as a opportunity to get better.”
Anderson said he’d accept some mistakes. But not for too long.
“Remember, we’re in early November, so at times we’re not going to look like a piece of artwork. There’s going to be some sloppiness,” Anderson said. “But, at the same time, we want to see it clean up as the game goes on.”
Anderson’s system, which is predicated on defense, is something that guard Stefhon Hannah said he is looking forward to playing. And despite how early it is in the season, Hannah has certain expectations for his team tonight.
“We just want to do what we’ve been working on in practice,” Hannah said. “Getting up and down the floor, guarding people. Just making people’s lives a living H-E-double-hockey-sticks for 40 minutes.”
Tonight’s game is also Anderson’s debut as Missouri’s coach. Not only will the fans get a chance to see Anderson coach, tonight will give his players a chance to play under him for the first time.
“It will be interesting to see what he’s like during a game,” Lawrence said. “I’m sure he’s the same as he is during practice. Kind of a no-B.S. kind of guy.
“I think he’ll be up barking around and getting into the game.”
But Anderson, while saying he was looking forward to the game, said his players are more excited than him.
“There’s work to be done,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we can go out and play as a team.”