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.
Rivalry revving for Hogs-Tigers
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson motivates his offense during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas defeated Auburn 86-67. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Missouri Coach Frank Haith laughed at SEC basketball media days in October when asked about his apparent attempt to charge the Arkansas bench and Coach Mike Anderson - before being retrained by an assistant - during last season’s game at Mizzou Arena.
During the first half of the Tigers’ 93-63 victory over the Razorbacks, ESPN’s cameras caught a fiery Haith looking like he was ready to fight Anderson, his Missouri coaching predecessor who responded with a bemused smile.
“Two brothers fighting,” Haith said last fall. “I mean, it happens all the time, right?That was nothing.”
The Razorbacks (13-6, 2-4 SEC) and Tigers (15-4, 3-3) play at 6 tonight at Walton Arena for the first time since last year’s game at Missouri.
Anderson and Haith have declined to be specific about what caused last season’s heated situation, but said they remain good friends.
“That’s water under the bridge,” Anderson said Sunday. “I think it was just miscommunication from both guys. We’ve moved on from that.”
Haith said during Monday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference that he and Anderson and their wives have enjoyed spending time together at coaches’ gatherings.
“So there’s no issue there,” Haith said.
Adding to the emotions of last season’s first Arkansas-Missouri SEC matchups - the Razorbacks won the opener 73-71 in Walton Arena - was that two of the top Tigers, point guard Phil Pressey and forward Laurence Bowers, played for Anderson. He referred to them being like his sons last season.
Now Pressey is with the Boston Celtics and Bowers is playing for a pro team in Israel.
“Those guys have moved on and they’ve done well,” Anderson said. “I still keep in touch with those guys.
“But it’s Missouri vs. Arkansas. It’s an SEC game.”
Haith said he never spent time worrying about coaching players against Arkansas who were so close to Anderson.
“Those guys are really good players, and Mike did a great job bringing talent in here, and I enjoyed coaching them last year,” Haith said. “But I embraced those guys as our guys when we got the job.”
Anderson and Haith may be friends and Bowers and Pressey no longer play for the Tigers, but the Arkansas-Missouri rivalry figures to remain emotional. The teams are SEC schedule partners and will play a home-and-home series every season.
“There’s some tension between Arkansas and Missouri it seems like, so I’m looking forward to playing them,” Tigers junior guard Jabari Brown told reporters in Columbia, Mo. “I like those type of games. They’re going to be riled up. We’re going to be riled up, too.”
Brown said he could feel the tension in last season’s games.
“Last year when we went down there we heard a lot from their fans,” Brown said. “I’m expecting the same this year.”
Anderson was booed loudly from the time he stepped onto the Mizzou Arena court last season until the end of the the game.
“There’s the story line I was there,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, that’s kind of faded an we can move on and play basketball.”
Brown said he couldn’t repeat everything Arkansas fans yelled at him in Walton Arena.
“Somebody told me they were surprised I was playing basketball. They thought everyone from Oakland just shoots people,” Brown said. “That was a new one. I never heard that one before.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Jacorey Williams recalled a play in last season’s game in Walton Arena where Tigers forward Alex Oriahki - now with the NBA’s Developmental League Erie (Pa.) BayHawks - lifted Razorbacks guard Kikko Haydar off the ground in what was ruled a jump ball.
“I just remember it being very, very physical from start to finish,” Williams said. “People getting picked up off the floor. Thrown on the floor. Fouling.
“It was just very competitive … and I feel like it’s going to be the same way this year. Whoever brings the most energy, that’s who is going to come out with a W.”
The teams being in border states, Anderson and Haith said, will enhance the SEC rivalry moving forward.
“It will continue to build,” Anderson said. “Where it’s at right now, I think it’s trending that way.”Today’s game
ARKANSAS MEN VS MISSOURI WHEN 6 p.m. today WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Arkansas 13-6, 2-4 SEC; Missouri 15-4, 3-3 SERIES Arkansas leads 20-19.
RADIO Razorback Sports Network TELEVISION ESPNU TICKETS $25 lower and upper deck, $20 loft (west end zone above fourth row) PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS MISSOURI POS. NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG G Jabari Brown, 6-5, Jr. ...............19.5 4.7 G Jordan Clarkson, 6-5, Jr...........18.8 4.1 G Earnest Ross, 6-5, Sr. ..............14.0 6.7 F Johnathan Williams, 6-9, Fr. ......6.9 7.4 C Ryan Rossburg, 6-10, So. ........4.5 4.3 COACH Frank Haith (68-20 in three seasons at Missouri, 197-121 in 10 seasons overall) ARKANSAS POS. NAME, HT, YR PPG RPG G Ky Madden, 6-5, Jr. ..................12.6 2.7 G Fred Gulley, 6-3, Sr. ...................5.1 1.6 G Anthlon Bell, 6-3, So. ................7.0 1.1 F Bobby Portis, 6-10, Fr, ..............11.9 6.6 F Coty Clarke, 6-7, Sr. ...................8.7 5.7 COACH Mike Anderson (50-33 in three seasons at Arkansas, 250-131 in 12 seasons overall)
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/28/2014