Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Kim Anderson and Kevin Punter’s respective last stops were a 30-minute drive from one another. Today, they’ll go head to head.
Anderson and his foundering Missouri Tigers (8-16, 1-10 Southeastern Conference) look to end a nine-game losing streak today (2 p.m., SEC Network) against Punter and the visiting Tennessee Volunteers (12-12, 5-6).
Punter played at State Fair Community College in Sedalia before transferring to Tennessee for the 2014-15 season. Anderson brought a Division-II national title to Warrensburg as the Central Missouri head coach before taking the Missouri gig.
Anderson said he spoke with Punter, who had previously committed to Missouri, after joining the Tigers. Anderson said Punter visited Tennessee a few weeks before he was scheduled to make an official visit to Missouri. He never made the trip.
Now, Punter is averaging 22.4 points per game, second in the SEC. Two weeks ago, Punter put up 27 to lead the Volunteers past No. 20 Kentucky.
“Good player,” Anderson said. “I had seen him when I was at Central. He was at State Fair. Good player and certainly … he’s a big part of their team.”
Missouri’s strongest player of late has been Ryan Rosburg, who scored a career-high 17 points at Alabama before besting that with 24 at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
It was in vain, however, as the Tigers fell 86-71. Missouri hasn’t won since Jan. 9, when it hosted Auburn. The Tigers are looking to snap their losing streak before it reaches last year’s franchise record of 13.
“No one ever envisions having a long losing streak,” freshman Terrence Phillips said. “Things happen. It’s the game of basketball. But like I’ve said before, the beauty about basketball, you get to wake up the next day and you get to play again, you get to compete again every day.”
Missouri’s second-year coach will be up against a first-year for Tennessee, Rick Barnes. Barnes, who coached Texas from 1998-2015, is Missouri’s fourth opposing coach this season hired in the last two years. The Tigers are 1-2 in such matchups and will still face Florida’s Mike White to close out the season.
“I’ve got so much respect for Kim,” Barnes said in an SEC coaches teleconference. “I know he’s had some situations he’s had to deal through, but from knowing him back in the Big 12 and certainly knowing the kind of coach he is, I think he’s done a great job with this team, trying to keep everything going there.”
The game has been dubbed the #RallyForRyan Game in support of assistant coach Brad Loos’ daughter Rhyan, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in October. Admission to the game is free with a paid donation of any amount. All money raised goes to pediatric cancer research.
“It’s important like any other game, but obviously there’s a big aspect that it’s basically Rhyan Loos’ night for everybody to come out and really kind of support her and support Mizzou basketball,” Phillips said. “So we’re going to enjoy that night. It should be a fun night. I can’t wait for Rally for Rhyan night.”