Preview: Missouri set to take on Vanderbilt for 4th annual Rally for Rhyan game

Coach Cuonzo Martin and Missouri assistant athletic director for major gifts talked significance of Saturday’s Rally for Rhyan game at Friday afternoon press conference.

Missouri basketball (10-9, 1-6) plays Vanderbilt (9-11, 0-7) Saturday night for the fourth annual Rally for Rhyan game. The game comes in the midst of a three-game losing streak for the Tigers, who have been victorious in all three previous Rally for Rhyan games.

“I’m always for a fight when it comes to our youth,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I think our guys, especially guys who are returning, they really understand the impact because they’ve been around Rhyan.”

Coach Martin tried a new starting lineup on Wednesday night in the 92-58 loss against Auburn, with sophomore Mark Smith still out after suffering an ankle injury against Arkansas on Jan. 23. Senior Kevin Puryear was also not featured in the starting lineup on Wednesday. He played just 14 minutes, his lowest total of the season.

Smith did not practice Friday and will be a game-time decision Saturday night.

Freshman guard Xavier Pinson tied his season-high for minutes played at 27, set originally against Oregon State in November 2018. Fellow freshman Torrence Watson also tied his season-high for minutes played at 29. Sophomore K.J. Santos appeared in the starting lineup alongside Pinson, but only played six minutes.

Usual Missouri starters — sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon and senior Jordan Geist — led the way with 15 and 11 points respectively. Geist also had nine rebounds.

“I thought we put up a good fight in the first half and I thought we could’ve played better in the first half,” coach Martin said. “I thought in the second half, we had two major breakdowns as far as coverages, left two guys wide open that kind of changed the game for us. We just couldn’t really get into a good flow after that.”

The Rally for Rhyan game was started in 2016 after Rhyan Loos, daughter of former Missouri assistant coach and current assistant athletic director of major gifts, Brad Loos, was diagnosed with stage-four neuroblastoma at the age 5. In the past three games, $164,000 has been raised for pediatric cancer research.

“The competitor in me would love for us to get $75,000 plus, but at the end of the day we went into the first year expecting to raise $10,000,” Loos said. “Every year, I’m just blown away that we raise money period. We’re thankful for anything and everything that we get.”

Rhyan has been cancer-free for almost two years and finished treatment protocol in November of 2018. With treatment finished, the now 8-year-old has medical scans every three months, but otherwise lives a normal life.

“We’re very blessed and very fortunate,” Loos said of the support the family has received from Missouri. “We understand how lucky we are to be at the University of Missouri, in this athletic department and a part of this state.”

Missouri tips off against Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. CST in Mizzou Arena.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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