Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri’s #RallyForRhyan Game went so well, Kim Anderson just might make it a regular occasion.
“Tuesday is Rally for Rhyan Night,” the Missouri coach joked Saturday, referring to the Tigers’ upcoming game against South Carolina. “I’ve got to tell (A.D.) Mack (Rhoades).”
For one, the Tigers won their first game in 10 tries, beating Tennessee 75-64. But the game’s success extended far beyond the scoreboard.
More than $50,000 was raised for pediatric cancer research in support of Rhyan Loos, the 5-year-old daughter of assistant coach Brad Loos. Rhyan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in October and just finished her fifth round of chemotherapy.
“We really had no idea what was going to transpire today,” Loos said. “And in my wildest imagination, this would’ve been unbelievable.”
The Tigers drew a season-high 10,536 fans, thanks in part to the fact admission was free with a donation of any amount. A total of $35,726 was brought in through monetary dontations and more than $15,000 in T-shirt sales.
Loos wasn’t sure earlier in the week whether Rhyan would be feeling up to attending Saturday’s game.
“As the week went on, her energy level picked up,” Loos said, “and not only did she make it to the game today, she had her first game as a cheerleader this morning as well, so she was double dipping today.”
The entire Loos family came out to applause at halftime as Loos spoke about the need for increased funding of pediatric cancer research. After the game, Rhyan was given the game ball.
“She plays hard to get with those guys,” Loos said of the players. “That feels good as a parent, knowing that when she gets old enough to date, she’s going to hold her own.
“… She doesn’t show it to them, which is good, but she eats all that stuff (up) and loves it.”
Loos gave the team a pregame speech that senior Ryan Rosburg said really hit home for the Tigers.
“He said that every day when his daughter goes to the hospital, she has no fear because she knows she’s going to beat cancer,” Rosburg said. “She’s not worried about anything else. She knows she’s going to win.”
“And so what I told them,” Loos said, “is, ‘If you guys want to do something for Rhyan, go out there today and play with that same fearlessness, knowing that you’re going to win today.’ And I think it definitely showed, because they came out to start the game with that confidence and that fearlessness that we haven’t seen in quite a while.”
Freshman Terrence Phillips said it worked.
“It was just one of those speeches that really touched you,” he said.
Missouri came out strong, hitting seven of its first nine shots. The Tigers trailed just twice in the game, at 2-0 and 4-3.
“We really just wanted this win for (Rhyan) more than anything,” Phillips said. “Not just for ourselves, really for her. And our guys just felt great. I could tell through our shootaround today and our pregame. There was a lot of energy and there was a lot of flow and I hadn’t seen that energy and flow in the past few weeks.”
Loos said Rhyan, who will undergo surgery in New York next month, began to understand that much of the crowd was there to support her.
“I think she did,” he said. “I think she knew this was a pretty big deal.”
Even in defeat, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes appreciated Missouri’s efforts.
“I think the most important thing that went on here today was what Missouri did for Rhyan Loos today,” Barnes said. “It’s unbelievable that they would do that and, again, I’ve always had great respect for the University of Missouri and their fans and to have a fundraiser like that and for obviously that disease that we all hate, that was a major, the biggest win of all.”
Loos said he “couldn’t have scripted” the day any better.
“What does this say about this community?” he said. “What does this say about this athletic department? What does this say about everyone in mid-Missouri? How special is this? This is a little girl that of the 10,000 (fans), 9,500 of them had probably never met her. And for them to come here and give their time and their money and their support, that says something about the type of people that we have in mid-Missouri.
“It’s very special. It’s like I said the last time, there’s a lot of bad in this world. You turn on the news every day and you can see it. But through this process, we’ve learned that there’s a lot more good than there is bad, and this is really special for us.”
So special, in fact, they might as well do it again.
“Absolutely, let’s do it,” Loos said. “C’mon. I don’t know if Mack’s going to be in favor of just letting everybody in free again. We’ve got bills to pay around here, but yeah, Rally For Rhyan Night again. Whatever it takes.”
Missouri assistant coach Corey Tate missed the game to attend the visitation for his father, who died last Sunday.
“So if you’re the praying type,” Anderson said, “pray for that family and (we’ll) hopefully get Corey back here in a few days.”