Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a past president and member of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
LIKE IT IS:
Maybe it isn’t rivalry, but it’s getting there
Arkansas freshman Michael Qualls and Missouri senior forward Laurence Bowers get tangled up in the lane as Missouri junior guard Phil Pressey, left, takes a shot over Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, during the second half of play in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Qualls and Bowers received a double techincal in the game.
LITTLE ROCK It was never quite as big a game in Arkansas as it was north of the state border.
Mike Anderson facing his old team Missouri for the first time since he left to rebuild the Arkansas Razorbacks wasn’t a big deal to Anderson, and for Arkansas fans it was nothing compared to how the Missouri Nation felt.
Anderson left Missouri for a better job. If the school wanted to keep him, it should have come up with the contract it promised him.
Few, if any, in Missouri will ever understand, but more than 19,000 fans showed up Saturday and the vast majority were Hog-calling fanatics who knew the game was big for the Razorbacks because March Madness is breathing down the neck of this basketball season.
Arkansas is playing for seeding in the SEC Tournament, which could be a huge factor in getting on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Kentucky’s stock dropped like a rock Saturday when it lost to Tennessee, 88-58, in its first game without center Nerlens Noel. If the Wildcats go into a slide, someone has to move up in the top four and won’t play until Friday, the third day of the SEC Tournament.
Last year, with Anderson’s players, Missouri Coach Frank Haith made it look easy by winning 30 games and the Big 12 Tournament and getting a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Only to lose its first game to Norfolk State in the Big Dance.
This season only Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers returned as Anderson recruits, so it wasn’t like a team full of guys who were breathing fire about Anderson leaving Missouri came a’calling Saturday.
It was an intense game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, but it was not a rivalry.
Pressey and Bowers love Anderson. They are like family. Kids who play for Anderson love him because he cares about them, their grades and their basketball.
So calling what wasplayed Saturday a rivalry is a stretch.
It is the start of one, no doubt about it. Geography is going to dictate that, and rivalries are fun. The Hogs overcoming a four-point deficit in the final 35 seconds will help, too.
It didn’t start well for the home team.
The Razorbacks were colder than a North Dakota New Years.
The Tigers weren’t red hot either but took a 9-0 lead before the Hogs could get on the board.
The Razorbacks didn’t lose their composure, and, in what was not a particularly spectacular first half for either team, cut the lead to 26-25 with 3:14 to play - mostly behind Marshawn Powell - and then blew four chances at taking the lead and went intointermission trailing 33-29.
Powell opened the second half exactly the way he should, being Arkansas’ go-to guy.
The junior scored 10 of the Razorbacks’ first 15 points in the half, and when he finally got a much needed breather, the Hogs were leading 44-41 with 15:06 to play.
The Tigers got a free throw, but Kikko Haydar nailed an uncontested three-pointer, the Hogs were up 47-42 and the visitors were looking for answers as Haith grabbed a timeout.
Hunter Mickelson’s first shot of the game made it 49-42, and then he showed his athleticism with a tip-in. Mardracus Wade’s three made it 54-48, and the intensity of the game spilled into a doublefoul situation.
It had more to do with Bowers being 1 of 10 from thefield than it did a rivalry, but the momentum swung to old Mizzou until BJ Young took over the game.
A tip-in by Michael Qualls made it 61-54, but the Tigers scored two field goals in 21 seconds, and it was Anderson’s turn to get a timeout.
It didn’t help the Hogs’ shooting and with 4:07 to play, the game was tied 63-63.
The Tigers moved in front 70-66 before Young made back-to-back three-point plays and added a free throw as the Razorbacks grabbed a quality victory at home, 73-71.
Now, it will be a rivalry March 5 when the Hogs visit Missouri.
Sports, Pages 27 on 02/17/2013