Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA, Anderson expecting an earful from Missouri
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson looks at his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Missouri Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri has averaged 8,673 fans for its first 12 home games with a high of 12,033 for South Carolina, but most, if not all, of Mizzou Arena’s 15,061 seats may be filled tonight.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson is back in town.
A sellout crowd booed Anderson’s every move in Mizzou Arena last season and had plenty to cheer about when the Tigers beat the Razorbacks 93-63.
It was an unhappy homecoming for Anderson, who led Missouri to a 111-57 record in five seasons before leaving to become Arkansas’ coach in March of 2011.
ARKANSAS AT MISSOURI
WHEN 6 p.m. Central
WHERE Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Mo.
RECORDS Arkansas 15-8, 4-6 SEC. Missouri 16-7, 4-6.
SERIES Tied 20-20
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Missouri fans let Anderson know during last season’s game they didn’t like being dumped for Arkansas, which is now the Tigers’ SEC rival.
“I felt the hate,” Razorbacks sophomore forward Michael Qualls said. “It’s just a crazy atmosphere. You can tell it’s things more than basketball that’s related. Mike Anderson used to coach there, and with all that there’s a lot of pressure.”
Arkansas senior guard Mardracus Wade said it was a hostile environment even during pregame warm-ups.
“The student section was talking so bad,” Wade said. “It was the worst I’ve ever heard in my life, the things they were saying. It was unbelievable.
“You could just feel that we didn’t belong there. It was like we were from another planet.”
Anderson downplayed his return to Mizzou Arena and the reaction he’ll get from fans.
“They’re not coming to see me,” Anderson said. “They’re coming to see their Missouri Tigers, I’m sure.”
Despite the reception Anderson received last season, he always talks positively about Missouri and its fans.
“I’m sure they’re going to be rooting for their team,” he said. “They’ll boo any coach that comes with any team in there. That’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s just part of it.”
But it’s hard to imagine a coach being booed more intensely than Anderson was at Mizzou Arena last season.
“That’s passion,” Anderson said. “That’s all that is.”
The Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6 SEC) said they are better prepared to handle the atmosphere at Mizzou Arena, especially after winning their first road game of the season, 77-75 at Vanderbilt last Saturday. Arkansas, which had lost seven consecutive road games going back to last season, shot 54 percent from the field (27 of 50) against the Commodores and had 11 steals.
“We’re just going to bring it,” Qualls said. “Not think about none of the negatives. Just go.”
Wade said the Razorbacks are more confident after winning at Vanderbilt.
“Guys are starting to believe now,” Wade said. “We know what it takes. When you’re on the road, you’ve got to persevere through a lot of things because everyone’s against you.”
Missouri Coach Frank Haith said the Vanderbilt game was a big boost for the Razorbacks.
“They shot the ball extremely well on the road. They’re a talented team,” Haith said. “I’m sure we’re going to get a very confident Arkansas team coming in here.”
The Tigers (16-7, 4-6) have lost three consecutive games - at home to Kentucky and on the road against Florida and Ole Miss - since winning 75-71 at Arkansas on Jan. 28.
“They’re hungry just like we are,” Anderson said. “They beat us here, so I’m sure for them it’s a game they’re looking forward to having an opportunity to improve and get a win.
“They stole one here so, we want to have the mind-set to try to steal one there.”
The Razorbacks wore anthracite uniforms for the first time at Vanderbilt, but Anderson declined to confirm if they’ll wear them again tonight.
“I’m not giving that away right now,” he said.
Haith said the Tigers, who were led by 24 points each from Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross in their victory at Arkansas, can’t assume they’ll beat the Razorbacks at home just because they did on the road.
“That’s definitely not how it works,” Haith said. “We had good bounces in that ballgame down the stretch. We made our free throws, had a big stop. It was a tight ballgame.
“We understand we were fortunate to beat a good team on the road. We’re going to get a very determined, very passionate ball club in here, and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Anderson said the Razorbacks are a different team than they are when the lost to Missouri two weeks ago and in a good place mentally after winning back-to-back SEC games, including a 65-58 victory over Alabama.
“I don’t think it’s about the physical part of it right now,” Anderson said. “It’s about the mental part as you get ready to go down the stretch here.”
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/13/2014