Tigers dominate Razorbacks in Anderson’s return

Laurence Bowers (center) gets attention from his Missouri teammates before delivering a speech to the crowd after Tuesday night’s win against Arkansas at Mizzou Arena.

Laurence Bowers (center) gets attention from his Missouri teammates before delivering a speech to the crowd after Tuesday night’s win against Arkansas at Mizzou Arena. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson helped rebuild Missouri’s basketball program that had fallen on hard times during his five years as Missouri’s coach from 2006-11.

In his return Tuesday night to Mizzou Arena, all of the goodwill seemed like a distant memory.

The Tigers raced out to a 26-point halftime lead and routed the Razorbacks 93-63 in front of a capacity crowd of more than 15,000.

On Senior Night, and Anderson’s much anticipated return to Columbia, it was obvious from the start Missouri wasn’t about to let Anderson leave Columbia with a victory.

“Emotions were pretty high for all of us,” Missouri guard Keion Bell said.

Forward Laurence Bowers, in his final home game, led the Tigers with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Jabari Brown added 23 points and Alex Oriakhi had 10 in what was one of Missouri’s most complete efforts of the season.

The Tigers (22-8, 11-6 Southeastern Conference) led nearly the entire first half and opened up a 35-22 lead with 3:55 left in the half. That’s when Missouri put an exclamation point on the game by closing the half on a 13-0 run.

The stretch included three straight defensive possessions where Arkansas (18-12, 9-8 SEC) had trouble getting any good looks at the basket. The Razorbacks were just 1-of-15 from the 3-point line in the first half and were essentially out of the game at that point.

“I thought we could cut into that lead, and maybe get it under 10,” Anderson said. “That’s what you want to have happen. Obviously they went on a run and I thought we enabled some of that between free throws and turnovers.”

Missouri coach Frank Haith said the first-half defense was some of the best the team has played this season, particularly the stretch at the end of the half.

“Other than our turnovers … from a defensive standpoint, we were really good,” Haith said.

Missouri outrebounded Arkansas 44-19 and won the battle in the paint 43-24, but did commit 15 turnovers.

Although Haith and Missouri’s players declined to comment on anything related to Anderson’s return, it was clear from the start there was some extra emotion from the Tigers.

Anderson was greeted with boos when he first came on the floor prior to the game. The boos grew louder when he was introduced and continued sporadically throughout the game.

At one point, the emotion seemed to spill over when midway through the first half, Anderson and Haith got into a jawing match. The two seemed to have a congenial handshake after the game. Haith explained the incident in the first half as being a “miscommunication.”

“I’m emotional for my team,” Haith said. “I was encouraging my team and I think he thought I was saying something else. I was only talking to my team.”

Added Anderson: “It was probably a miscommunication, probably on either his part or my part. I don’t know. I don’t make too much about that.”

Bowers, who shared a hug with Anderson after the game, said he did not want to comment on Anderson’s return. Phil Pressey, like Bowers the only other current Tiger to have played for Anderson, said he would not talk about it, either.

Drama also spilled over to the handshake line after the game, as Oriakhi and Arkansas guard Michael Qualls had to be separated.

Anderson then got somewhat testy in the postgame when he was asked multiple times if he regretted how he left Missouri.

“I think in life sometimes you have to move forward, and that’s what I’ve done,” Anderson said.

Most of the drama centered around Anderson’s return, as the game was never in doubt in the second half.

Arkansas opened the second half on a 7-0 run, but never got closer than 18. Missouri led by as many as 34 late in the game.

Despite Arkansas’ 73-71 victory against Missouri on Feb. 16 in Fayetteville, Ark., the outcome of this game seemed almost predictable on paper. Missouri completed a 17-0 record at Mizzou Arena this season, while Arkansas dropped to 1-9 on the road.

Arkansas, which is next-to-last in the SEC in 3-point shooting at 30 percent, finished the game 6-of-25 from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Missouri shot 58 percent from the floor. In the last three games the Tigers are shooting 61.4 percent from the floor.

Missouri was able to control Marshawn Powell this time around. He scored 24 in the first meeting, but had just nine points Tuesday night as the Razorbacks struggled offensively thanks in part to Missouri’s defense. B.J. Young led Arkansas with 27 points.

But the buildup to Tuesday’s game was about Anderson’s return to Columbia.

He said it was different for him to see Bowers and Pressey play in their final game at Mizzou Arena.

“I’m trying to beat them in the place that I brought them to,” Anderson said. “That’s the part that’s kind of, ‘Oh man, something ain’t right about this.’ But at the same time, they’ve done well. ... Frank has done an excellent job with them playing good basketball.”

Notes: Missouri closes out the regular season Saturday at Tennessee. ... Pressey was asked after the game if this was his final home game. “I’m focused on this year, got to focus on this year,” he said. Pressey is a junior and could enter the NBA draft. ... It was Missouri’s first unbeaten home season since 2008-09.

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