Don’t tell the Missouri Tigers their win over Arkansas was a big deal.
For them, it was just another game, another contest they expected to win. Nevermind that Arkansas came into the game 5-0 or that Missouri coach Mike Anderson spent 17 seasons as an assistant there. The Tigers claim none of that made their 86-64 win any bigger than the seven that came before it.
“They’re (the Razorbacks) a good team but beating them’s not all we want to do,” guard Jason Horton said. “We’re not basing our season off of beating Arkansas. We have a lot more teams to play. We haven’t even scratched our schedule yet. We haven’t gotten to the meat of our schedule. We’re looking forward to getting more wins and just taking it one game at a time.”
When the Tigers play today against Evansville (4-2), they will be three days removed from their first win against a team from a major conference. And, Anderson said, they should be three days removed from even thinking about it.
“I always tell them, at midnight, it’s over with. Let’s move on to the next one,” Anderson said. “Between the fans, the family, the friends, the people who saw the game, it’s probably natural for them to still be thinking about that game.”
After the win against Arkansas, the Tigers had no practice on Friday. And, because of the snow storm that hit Columbia, the university was closed and the players had no classes. Those factors, Anderson said, led him to expect his team to be sluggish in practice Saturday.
“I had to wake them up a little bit, so to speak,” Anderson said with a grin. “With a day off, there’s normally going to be some rustiness because of the timing. They didn’t have a chance to get to the gym with the day off.”
In Thursday’s win, the game setting inspired Missouri. The fans that did show up were loud, the game was on ESPN2, and the opponent was a team that had beaten West Virginia and Southern Illinois. Conversely, Evansville is a mid-major team similar to the ones Missouri played to start its season. They may be not be in a major conference, but they are capable of beating Missouri if the Tigers don’t play well. And the Tigers know that.
“We can’t come out lax tomorrow,” guard Keon Lawrence said. “We have to come out with the same energy, because tomorrow is going to be a test. We have to come out with the same energy we did Thursday. We have to maintain it and stay humble. We just have to keep it up. We’re a work in progress.”
Maybe, Horton said, the same energy level won’t be enough today.
“After you beat a good team, you have to bring as much energy, if not more, to the next game,” Horton said. “That’s the mark of a great team.”
SNOW DAYS: By the time the Missouri game ended late Thursday, Columbia was covered in snow. Because of the conditions, the commute home for the coaches and players was more difficult than usual.
“We got there safe and took our time,” Anderson said. “We left before it really got bad.”
But it did get bad, with more than a foot of snow eventually dropping on Columbia. Despite growing up in Newark, N.J., Lawrence wasn’t happy to see the snow.
“Man, the snow is crazy. I’m used to it, but I don’t like it,” Lawrence said. “People went sledding, but I didn’t. I just rested and iced my foot, and watched some TV. I came up here and shot some but mostly rested.”
SO LONG, TIGERS: Today’s game is the first of only four games Missouri will play this month. After today, Missouri will play Dec. 9 at Purdue and Dec. 19 against Illinois in St. Louis. Its next home game isn’t until Dec. 30, when Southern University comes to Columbia.