As the Missouri men's basketball team showed off its new threads at the first-ever Mizzou Madness, junior guard Phil Pressey and senior guard Michael Dixon showed off their own skills.
Amid the festivities--including a dunk competition highlighted by senior guard Keion Bell's winning flight over six volunteer students, a shooting competition and a skills contest--the duo dueled in the backcourt as Dixon’s Black squad defeated Pressey’s Gold team 28-24 in the intra-squad, 10-minute scrimmage.
“We’ve got almost a new team. We’ve only got two guys I’ve coached in a game and that’s Mike and Phil,” Haith told fans on the court after the game. “So we’ve got a relatively new team, but I’ll be honest with you: we’ve got a chance to have a special season, there’s not doubt about that.”
The two many are calling the best backcourt in the nation impressed in the contest, running Haith’s pick-and-roll offense in crisp fashion.
“We’re farther along than a team would normally be this time of year,” Haith said, crediting new NCAA rules allowing coaches to practice with their teams for up to eight hours a week at the end of the summer until practices officially started today.
Pressey notched two points and three assists to keep Gold, who never held the lead, at a close margin, while Dixon’s seven points and five assists led Black to victory. Pressey also had four assists as the scrimmage featured numerous alley-oop attempts and no-look passes often gone awry.
Junior forward Earnest Ross, playing on the Black unit, led all scorers with 11 points on four-of-five shooting. Forward Laurence Bowers, the redshirt senior back in action after an ACL-tear sidelined him last season, led both squads with five rebounds for the Gold team.
“I didn’t really care how I did," he said. "Just putting the jersey on, running out there, hearing my name, it was crazy.”
Junior forward Tony Criswell proved an able stretch-power forward, running the floor with ease and competing inside with senior center Alex Oriakhi (three points, one rebound) and freshman forward Ryan Rosburg (five points, three rebounds) for the Gold squad. Criswell, one of three Tigers to play the match’s entirety, finished with seven points on three of five shooting and one rebound.
With four seconds remaining, Pressey’s alley-oop to Bell (seven points, one rebound) pulled Black within two, but Dixon knocked down two free throws after a Pressey foul with 3.1 seconds left to seal the game.
Overall, Haith said, the night was a good way to give back to fans, whom he credited in his post-game remarks for propelling last year’s 30-5 squad to a Big 12 Conference Tournament championship.
The banner-raising celebration for the tournament title was raised at the beginning of the evening.
“I was excited. It was crazy,” Pressey said of the banner-raising. “… I just can’t wait to put a national championship up there. That’s what I’ve been working for.”
As preseason rankings were released earlier this week, Sporting News ranked the Tigers No. 10 and ESPN ranked them No. 11.
“I’ve never really come out and said we have a chance to win a national championship,” Bowers said on Thursday at the team’s media day, “but I feel, with this team, we really do.”
Yet Haith was not buying into the rankings on the hype citing MU’s upset to Cinderella Norfolk State in the NCAA tournament a year ago.
“Why should we buy into the hype or pay attention to what people are saying now,” he asked, “when we didn’t listen to them last year?”