Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — It might be a bit of an understatement to say things didn’t go well the last time Missouri faced Arkansas. On Jan. 12, the Razorbacks handed the Tigers a 94-61 loss, their worst at home since 1957.
“I’m going to over-exaggerate this, but they shot about 90 percent when they came here,” freshman Terrence Phillips said. “So who knows if they’ll shoot that again. Hopefully not.”
Missouri (10-16, 3-10 Southeastern Conference) heads to Bud Walton Arena today (6:30 p.m., SEC Network) seeking revenge against Arkansas (12-14, 5-8), which actually shot 62.7 percent from the field in the first meeting.
This time around, however, it’s a bit of a different Missouri team.
For one, the Tigers are coming off their first consecutive SEC wins under second-year coach Kim Anderson. The loss to Arkansas kicked off a nine-game losing streak that just ended a week ago.
But the Tigers are also a different team personnel wise. Wes Clark, the team’s highest-scoring guard, was dismissed for academic reasons ahead of Missouri’s defeat of South Carolina on Tuesday. And while he’s been there longer than anyone, senior Ryan Rosburg has looked like a new man of late, averaging 20 points during his last four games and shooting 65.7 percent from the field in his last 10.
“‘Ryan Abdul-Jabbar,’” sophomore Tramaine Isabell said. “That’s what his name is saved as in my phone. Because we all know he’s got it in him. I’m glad to see him go out like this. Rosburg, I’m one of his biggest fans, and Rosburg knows that. So I’m excited for him. I want him to keep doing what he’s doing.
“… I’m going to ‘Burg. We’re feeding ‘Burg. He’s going to get us there.”
Phillips and Isabell have taken on added duties as the only two remaining scholarships players who can play the point for Missouri. They shined Saturday, scoring a combined 25 points on 50 percent shooting.
Isabell put up all of his 10 points in the first half, seeing 13 minutes of court time while Phillips picked up two fouls.
“For that whole 10 minutes I was out, he really united the team, just to get them going,” Phillips said. “I’m really proud of Tramaine for that.”
Phillips took control down the stretch, racking up 10 points and three assists in the second half.
“It says a lot about his maturity and how he leads his team as our point guard,” freshman forward Kevin Puryear said. “Everybody knows he’s capable of making big plays like that, and to see him do that wasn’t out of the ordinary.”
The short bench at guard has also meant playing time for 5-foot-9 walk-on Jimmy Barton. With Clark gone, Anderson said he anticipates playing Barton on a regular basis.
“Jimmy’s another hard worker we have in our locker room, so when he checked into the game I wasn’t worried at all,” Phillips said. “Jimmy plays with confidence. He practices against us every day, and he held it down.”
Guard play will be important against the Razorbacks, who forced 14 takeaways in the teams’ first meeting. Though Anderson said it wasn’t Arkansas’ full-court press that was the biggest problem.
“You’d think they were off the press,” Anderson said of the turnovers. “They really weren’t. They were actually, most of them were in the half court. But they made us play at a speed that we weren’t used to playing at.”
Six-foot-10 Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley led all scorers with 24 points against Missouri. Rosburg played just 10 minutes in that game, and Anderson hopes his recent surge will make a difference this time around.
“We must’ve played a smaller lineup (the first game),” Anderson said. “So certainly I do, with the way that Ryan’s been playing, I hope he’ll continue to play that way and play with that type of confidence.”
Ugly as the loss was, Anderson said he still planned to show the team some of the footage — though not too much. Plus, he points out, it’s been a while since that game. Arkansas has lost its last three games, including at home Wednesday to Auburn, which Missouri beat for its first SEC win.
Still, Isabell plans to learn from the Tigers’ mistakes in their historically bad January loss.
“I’ll rewatch that game,” he said. “I like to see how they’re playing, if they’re pressing you. With Arkansas, I feel like we’ve just got to take care of the ball, just not turn the ball over and if you get decent shots, we’ll be fine. We’ll be right in the game.
“We just can’t let that first punch scare us. We’ve just got to come out strong, and then we’ll be good.”