Tigers prepare for legendary matchup

“I’m going to tell them ahead of time,” Anderson said. “But when they walk out on the floor, they’re going to see this is a pretty big game with an NCAA Tournament atmosphere.”

Former Missouri coach Norm Stewart never took his sport coat off on the sidelines. But that all changed Dec. 22, 1993 in St. Louis Arena.

With eight minutes left in the second half, a foul call prompted the coach to rip off his navy sport coat and let the sweat stains build up on his shirt for the world to see. After all, beating Illinois in the annual Braggin’ Rights game was a little more important than hiding some well-earned perspiration.

An overtime period later, the sweat stains had grown and a furious Stewart burst onto the court as the Illini’s Kiwane Garris drew a foul with seconds to go in the second overtime. Watching from the sidelines was much too subtle for Stewart, whose furor had only grown as the game went on.

Kim Anderson, an assistant under Stewart at the time, still remembers the incident like it was yesterday.

“We were on the far end and they were shooting on the other end and coach (Stewart) was way out on the floor,” Anderson said. “I thought he was going to block the shot, block the free throw. I know he had a sport coat and he never had the sport coat off. Well he had the sport coat and he was sweating.”

Garris, a freshman who shot .803 in free throws that year, just needed to make one to take home the bragging rights. Maybe it was a freshman cracking under the pressure or Stewart distracting Garris by screaming at the officials, but the reason doesn’t really matter in hindsight.

He missed them both.

The Tigers went on to win in the third overtime.

“That’s one of the greatest games I’ve ever been involved with,” Anderson said.

Mizzou won the conference title that season and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. The Braggin’ Rights game turned everything around.

Twenty-one years have passed since that epic duel, but aside from the venue, not much has changed.

Much like the team of 1993, the Tigers are in dire need of something “good to happen” according to Anderson.

“It’d be huge,” junior center Ryan Rosburg said. “We need a signature win, something to put us over the hump and get us rolling. It’d make Christmas a lot better for us.”

Playing well for 40 minutes will be key for the Tigers, who have had a tendency to drop their level of play for periods within a game, just letting the game get out of grasp. Mizzou had three straight possessions to take the lead in the second half against Xavier on Saturday, but poor shooting and sloppiness proved to be the downfall, eventually losing by 16 points.

Rosburg says that has been a frustrating part of this season, especially with such a young team. Consistency is vital in college basketball, and right now, the Tigers are about as consistent as Missouri’s weather.

Regardless, the Bud Light Braggin’ Rights game will give the young team a chance to prove they can play a consistent 40 minutes on the big stage. With the exception of freshman forward Montaque Gill-Caesar, who played for the Canadian U18 National Team, most of the freshmen have little to no experience playing in front of crowds of 20,000.

“I’m not sure (if they’re prepared for) when they walk out on the court Saturday and there’s 21,000 people and half of them are going to be wearing the other color, so we’ll talk about it,” Anderson said. “We’re going to do some different things this week to prepare for it. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere for both teams and both sets of fans.”

Gill-Caesar has never even watched the game. Freshman guard Namon Wright watched it twice in high school and fellow classmate, forward D’Angelo Allen only expects one thing from Saturday’s matchup: “a win.”

It’s clear Allen’s confidence has rubbed off on teammates.

“I think we’ll react the way we’re supposed to react: With confidence,” Gill-Caesar said. “We just gotta go out there and compete, not take anything for granted and leave everything out on the floor.”

A win in the Braggin’ Rights game could give this young Mizzou team the exact boost needed to succeed in Southeastern Conference play. It probably won’t boost them to an Elite Eight showing, but the .500 Tigers will take anything they can get at this point.

Anderson and the upperclassmen know the importance of this game, and they’ll do everything they can to prepare a young team heading into uncharted territory. The floor will shake at tip-off and the crowd will be visibly divided by an array of bright orange and blue, along with black and gold.

But most of all, it’s going to be loud.

“I’m going to tell them ahead of time,” Anderson said. “But when they walk out on the floor, they’re going to see this is a pretty big game with an NCAA Tournament atmosphere.”

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