Missouri basketball picks up first SEC win of the season over Arkansas 83-78

The win snapped a 13-game losing streak, which was tied for the worst losing streak in school history.

Jordan Geist, 15, strides past defenders during a game at Mizzou Arena on Feb. 5, 2017.

Junior forward Jordan Barnett had 17 points off the bench and sophomore guard K.J. Walton had 15 points and a huge steal down the stretch as the Missouri Tigers defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 83-78 at Mizzou Arena on Saturday night.

The game was Missouri’s best-attended this season, as an estimated 11,434 people came out to watch the Tigers pick up their first Southeastern Conference win of the season and support the #RallyForRhyan campaign. The campaign supports pediatric cancer research and Rhyan Loos, the 6-year-old daughter of Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos who has been fighting bone cancer for more than a year.

Coach Kim Anderson said he was pleased with the emotion and energy his team carried throughout the game.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Anderson said. “They’ve been resilient all year, they just haven’t had the success that they deserved. It’s a special day, and we matched Rhyan’s fight.”

Although there were times in the second half where it looked as if Missouri (6-16, 1-9) was going to let Arkansas (17-6, 6-4) take over, the Tigers never gave up the lead and forced 17 turnovers to get the win.

After shooting 61.5 percent from the field in the first half, the Tigers took lots of low-percentage shots to start the second, making scoring considerably more difficult. But Missouri made the adjustment in the latter half of the second period, focusing on getting the ball inside by slashing to the basket to get better-quality looks.

Walton said the Tigers were especially motivated to play well for Rhyan, as well as get over the team’s 39-point loss to No. 24 Florida on Thursday night.

“When you get killed like that, it should hurt, and it hurt today,” he said. “We came out and we played mad, and I think that was the difference.”

Barnett said getting off to a good start was the key to Missouri’s victory.

“It was huge,” Barnett said. “Sometimes we get off to good starts and lose it a little bit, but to get off to a really good start gave us some ground and confidence to continue to play like that.”

Walton said Rhyan’s fight against cancer served as an inspiration for the team to persevere.

“She’s fought hard through what she’s going through, and she’s a sweet little girl,” he said. “I’m proud we got it for her.”

The win was the Tigers’ second victory in #RallyForRhyan games, and it snapped a 13-game losing streak, which had been tied for the longest in program history and was the second-longest active streak in Division I basketball.

Anderson said after the game that he and his team would celebrate the win and the brief respite it provides from what has been an otherwise disappointing season.

“I hope they have a good time tonight, within the limits of the law,” Anderson said. “I know I’m going to go have a good time within the limits of the law.”

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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