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This week in MU basketball

by Ray Speckman
Contributing writer

Last week was a busy one for basketball activity at MU’s Hearnes Center. The action began on Tuesday and after a full day of basketball on Saturday, MU came away with two victories, one loss, and one tie.

The 13th ranked men’s team trounced Centenary on Tuesday and won the Big XII conference opener against Baylor on Saturday. The Lady Tigers, on the other hand, lost to the 20th ranked Texas Longhorns Saturday afternoon.

And the tie? Well, there was an alumni game Saturday afternoon where stalwarts of the past showed that glories of the past remain mostly in the recesses of the mind.

Here are notes from a week of roundball in Columbia:

*Quick now…where is Centenary located and what is the team nickname?

*If that seems easy for you then what is the name of the most notable basketball player to ever play at the Methodist school, the smallest (888 students) in NCAA Division one? A hint: He played on the Boston Celtic Championship teams in the 1980’s.

*Centenary will become part of the Mid-America Conference (which also includes UMKC Kangaroos) next year. It is also the oldest 4-year-old college west of the Mississippi.

*Missouri picked on the Gents (That’s short for Gentlemen and the nickname of the school) who came into Columbia with a 5-8 record and took on the Tigers with only two starters over 6-5.

*There was one standout player on the Gents, 6-2 junior guard from Staten Island, NY, Andrew Wisniewski.

*Going into the game with the Shreveport, Louisiana school, MU forward Ricky Paulding was 4th leading scorer in the Big XII conference with 18.7 points per game.

*There was a sparse crowd at the beginning of the Centenary game and late arrivals failed to see the initial scoring outburst of the Tigers as the host team lead 34-15 at the ten-minute mark of the first period.

*It looked like a blowout. Missouri never completely put the frisky Gents away and they hung around within striking distance before pulling away for an 88-58 victory.

*Kevin Young, 6-9 and 270 pounds, a freshman from Jamaica, excited newly re-signed MU coach Quin Snyder with several thunderous dunks.

*Arthur Johnson, MU’s center, worked during the game on a soft running jump shot from around the basket. He showed good touch but had trouble with the shot dropping and finished with only 10 points for the game.

*Darn the MU Golden Girls and cheerleaders look young.

*The Lady Tigers (6-6) gave the Longhorns from Texas a very good game Saturday afternoon before dropping a 70-59 decision. Attendance was a “pretty good” 2002, according to MU Assistant Sports Information guru, Sam Fluery.

*The distaff game featured tenacious defense and great ball handling by both teams with Missouri pulling even with 3:25 left before the Lady Longhorns went on a 18-7 run at the end of the game to win going away.

*As in all games, the MU Pep games entertained with such tunes as Missouri Waltz, Eye of the Tiger and the Mizzou Fight Song.

*Following the Lady Tiger game, 10 of the MU basketball alumni who returned with about 40 more of their fellow Bballers for a reunion of sort, played a 30 minute exhibition game.

*The five on five encounter featured such past stalwarts as John Brown and Julian Winfield. The game started ambitiously enough but shortly into the game there was a lot of three on three as players stayed back on defense and offense, resting weary lungs, bent over, hands on their knees.

*The alum showed remnants of past glories with good hands but also soft bellies, tiring legs and shortness of breath.

*The PA announcer was MU color-commentator and former Tiger Gary Link, who chided his contemporaries with wise cracks during the two 15 minute halves.

*Mercifully, the clock ran on all time outs and out of bounds plays.

*The “game” ended with the Silver team led by Bradd Sutton with 27 points whipping up on the Gold team, 75-60. Winfield was high scorer for the Gold with 17 points.

*At half time of the Missouri-Baylor game that followed, those exhausted players and a total of 50 returning athletes were introduced to the crowd. There were players present from seven decades.

*The wrap-up for the week was the Tiger-Baylor Bears game. Baylor came into the contest with an 9-2 record under third-year head coach Dave Bliss, whose resume’ includes coaching stints at New Mexico, SMU, and Oklahoma.

*R. T. Guinn, Baylor’s 6-10 Junior Center and Ricky Clemons traded three point shots to begin the game the things were off and running. Guinn was hurt soon thereafter and did not return to the game.

*An indication of what could be a night of balanced scoring for the Tigers was surfacing as the first four scores were by four different players.

*Jimmy McKinney, MU’s prized freshman shooting guard from St. Louis, made a lot of offensive mistakes and with 13:47 left in the first period, Coach Snyder pulled his prodigy quickly, talked to him a few seconds on the sideline and then unceremoniously handed him over to an assistant who took a chalk board. “Draw him a picture!” was the evident statement by new father Snyder, armed with a $1 million contract extension.

*Two minutes later, the lesson explained, McKinney reentered the game.

*Arthur Johnson, having abandoned his soft touch approach he used in the Centenary game became aggressive, pounding the boards for rebounds and fighting for shots close in.
*New MU president Elson S. Floyd was introduced to the crown of 13,411 during a timeout. He was escorted to center court by MU Athletic Director Mike Alden and received a warm welcome, after which he ‘sprinted’ to the student section to give high-fives to cheering students.

*As the 50 alums lined up in the tunnel to be introduced at half-time MU held on to a ten point lead, 35-25.

*Baylor showed weakness on D the entire evening. There was no evidence of their defense that had held opponents to a .386 shooting percentage in the previous games this year.
*Quin Snyder’s record is 41-27 in night games and 43-9 in home games during his tenure at MU.

*Another Snyder stat: “Good coaches win close games.”??? Well, Snyder is 16-18 in games where the deciding margin was five points or less.

*In one short sentence, this game was decided by the play of Arthur Johnson who scored a personal high of 30 points and dominated the boards with 15 rebounds (6 offensive).

*MU continued to lack a ‘killer-instinct.” As did Centenary earlier in the week, the Bears from Baylor continued to hang around within striking distance and pulled within three points, 72-69 with 1:20 left in the game.

*Arthur Johnson put the game away with a crowd-pleasing dunk that brought the spectators to their feet and registered over 100 on the decibel meter in the 31-year-old Hearnes Center.

*The new $75 million basketball arena will be completed in 2004. If you want to follow the progress, there is a 24/7 live cam of the construction area. <http://ath.missouri.edu/arena/>

*Coach Snyder announced that reserve Najeeb Echols would leave the team immediately to be “closer to his family.” Echols is a native of the Chicago area.

*Robert Parrish of the Celts is a graduate of Centenary. Another sports-notable alum of the school is golfer Hal Sutton.