Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Both coaches are named Anderson. Both currently hold their dream jobs, at schools where they were formerly assistants. And both are in the process of trying to turn around those programs.
Kim Anderson and Mike Anderson face off for the first time today as Missouri hosts Arkansas (1 p.m. ESPN2-TV).
Mike Anderson, who coached Missouri from 2006-2011, brings to Mizzou Arena what might be his best team in three years at Arkansas. Kim Anderson, who replaced Mike Anderson’s replacement, has gotten off to a slow start at Missouri, losing 11 of his first 18 games — and four straight in conference.
“Every week, I say we’ve got to play more consistent, and that’s what we have to do,” Kim Anderson said. “And every guy has got to do it. We’ve had our challenges doing that.”
The Tigers failed to win a non-conference game against a power-conference opponent and have lost every Southeastern Conference game since their SEC opener against LSU.
Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks went a combined 59-39 (26-26 in conference) his first three years at Arkansas. The Razorbacks have gone 14-4 so far this year, and were ranked as high as 18th in the AP Poll before consecutive losses to Tennessee and Mississippi knocked them from the rankings.
As Missouri fans likely remember, Mike Anderson’s team features a persistent full-court press, something a young Missouri team will have to handle if it hopes to earn its first win in more than two weeks.
Arkansas is led by two of the top three scorers in the SEC. Sophomore Bobby Portis’ 17.8 points per game are best in the conference, and junior Michael Qualls’ 16.0 points per game are third. Thursday, Qualls scored 30, including a game-winning tip-in as time expired in overtime against Alabama.
“It’s hard to imitate that press, because they’ve got five guys out there that are really, really used to playing it,” Kim Anderson said. “We don’t press a lot, so we just try to put a group out there of scout-team guys to try to imitate it as best we can, and hopefully it works. Hopefully it gives them enough of an idea. We show them a lot of video and try to explain to them where the problem areas are. But I think we’ll be prepared.”
Missouri has seen a few presses this year, such as Tennessee’s zone press, but the Razorbacks take it to a different level.
“Tennessee full-courts the whole game, and Texas A&M full-courts at times, so we kind of had a little bit of touch for it,” Missouri sophomore Wes Clark said. “But we still haven’t really seen anything like Arkansas.”
Kim Anderson added: “The thing that Arkansas does so well is they’ll press you and then they’ll keep pressing you. They do a good job in the half court. Relentless. Trapping ball screens, switching ball screens, whatever it is, they do everything at a high rate.”
Though the Tigers dealt with it well for the most part, Tennessee’s pressure did get to Missouri at the end. The Tigers turned the ball on three straight possessions late to let a potential win slip away in their most recent home game.
The Tigers reached the free-throw line just six times that game, which was sandwiched between an eight free throw performance against Kentucky and a five free-throw night against Texas A&M.
Kim Anderson said the Tigers have struggled to rebound offensively and get shots close to the lane, but the low number of free-throw attempts also boils down to something as simple as playing hard.
“In order for us to get to the foul line, you’ve got to play hard from the time the tip comes,” he said. “Because the nature of the game is that if you don’t play hard for seven minutes, say, and then all of a sudden you play hard, well they’re going to call fouls on you. I don’t blame them. … So, you have to set the tone for the game, and we haven’t done that.”
The game is the fifth between Missouri and Arkansas since the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012. Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks won the first conference game between the schools, but Missouri has the edge in the last three.
Kim Anderson said he has known Mike Anderson for a while, back from when the latter was an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas. Mike Anderson took the UAB head coaching job in 2002 and headed to Columbia four years later to replace Quin Snyder. His teams went 111-57 at Missouri and the 2008-09 Tigers won the Big 12 Tournament and reached the Elite Eight.
“He did a great job here, and obviously he’s doing a good job down there,” Kim Anderson said. “I haven’t watched him a lot the last three years, but from what everybody tells me, this is probably his best group since he went there. I think he’s a good basketball coach. He’s a good person. I know he’s well thought of by many people here. We’re not super close, but I think he’s a good coach and done a good job.”