Its not often 46-point victories are afterthoughts, but such was the case Sunday night in Joplin.
The Missouri Tigers defeated the Missouri Southern Lions on Sunday by a score of 114-68 in the One State, One Spirit Classic.
MU jumped out to an early 10-2 lead and never trailed again. Senior guard Marcus Denmon scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Junior guard Michael Dixon chipped in 19 points off the bench on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with a team-high eight rebounds.
The Tigers won, but the basketball game isn’t what Sunday night was about. It was about the resilient residents of Joplin getting a few steps further along on the road to recovery.
“This event was huge for this community,” MSSU coach Robert Corn said. “We’re very appreciative of the University of Missouri and coach Haith bringing his team down here to play. Our community benefitted from this a lot, a whole lot.”
On May 21, an EF-5 tornado tore through the town of Joplin, taking 162 lives and destroying more than 30 percent of the town’s infrastructure.
More than six months after those tragic events, MSSU hosted Missouri in the unique One State, One Spirit Classic as a fundraiser for tornado relief.
MSSU student and tornado survivor Desi Hickman sang the National Anthem in front of an arena-record crowd of 3,477 after the arena stood for a moment of silence at 5:41 p.m. — the same time the tornado touched down months earlier.
During pre-game festivities, the Leggett and Platt Athletic Center announcer disclosed that the game was expected to raise “well over $100,000” in relief funds.
T-shirts with the slogan “One State. One Spirit. One Mizzou.” went on sale May 24 and raised more than $275,000 for the United Way’s United for Joplin campaign.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was in attendance and spoke to both teams before tipoff.
Aside from the annual Black and Gold exhibition game at Mizzou Arena, Missouri players could not recall another game in which the crowd cheered for both teams.
MU didn’t have to play this game. After the tornado, Haith pitched the idea to Athletics Director Mike Alden, who then petitioned the NCAA to grant Missouri the right to play a third exhibition game.
The game was broadcast nationally on ESPNU, and MU School of Journalism alumnus John Anderson had the call.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, ESPN wouldn’t be here if Mizzou wasn’t here,” Nixon said following the game.
Both senior forward Kim English and Corn applauded MU, and the efforts of Haith in particular, for making Sunday’s events possible.
“(Haith) came here with no prior connections to the state,” English explained. “To have the idea to bring his team to a nationally-ranked Division II team’s floor and raise money is a testament to his character.”
Corn said the exposure the One State, One Spirit Classic brought to his program was “invaluable,” since typically the only Division II game shown on national television is the Division II national title game. But Corn was even more grateful for the exposure the event brought to the community.
“On May 22, the national media told me we’ll be here for a few days and then something else will happen and it’ll carry us away,” Corn said. “But for one night, the national media came back to Joplin, Mo.”