Young stars shine in Rally for Rhyan game

Kevin Puryear’s statline saw its third goose egg of the season points-wise. Jeremiah Tilmon picked up the slack, leading the team with 19 points.
Missouri guards Torrence Watson, left, and Javon Pickett talk during a dead ball in the second half of MU's fourth annual Rally for Rhyan game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo. The Tigers beat the Commodores 77-67.

Former Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos joked Friday afternoon in a press conference that his daughter and namesake of Rally for Rhyan, Rhyan Loos, was expecting a big game out of Kevin Puryear.

“Rhyan, she’s pretty clear cut on what she wants [from Kevin],” Loos said. “She wants 20 points, 10 rebounds and a game-winning shot. I dare Kevin to make her angry.”

The senior scored 13 points in last year’s Rally for Rhyan game against Mississippi State, including the game-winning shot to keep the Tigers undefeated in the charity game. He’s averaged 15 points across the past three Rally for Rhyan games, and was hand-selected by the 8-year-old to wear her name on his warm-up shirt.

Although he checked off one of Rhyan’s boxes with 10 rebounds Saturday night, the senior was scoreless against the Commodores. He wasn’t even on the court in the final seconds of the game to score a game-winner had it been necessary. Instead, his younger counterparts rose to the occasion to lift Missouri (11-9, 2-6) to a 77-67 win over Vanderbilt (9-12, 0-8).

Sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon led the Tigers in scoring with a 19-point performance. He was trailed closely by freshmen Torrence Watson and Javon Pickett who each scored 12 of their own.

“I think the team is maturing. As you can see, we have a lot of young guys,” Watson said of the team’s growth. “So [we’re] just learning how to close out the games.”

The three, plus freshman guard Xavier Pinson, combined for 52 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and only two turnovers.

“[They’re] no longer freshman,” coach Cuonzo Martin said of his freshmen. “[They’ve] been in games, played in big games. It’s basketball at this point. It’s making plays. [They] understand what we’re trying to do, [they’ve] seen the highs and lows of it.”

While Puryear may have worn the biggest name of the night across his back, Tilmon and Watson displayed some equally recognizable names.

Rylie Maher’s name was displayed across the back of Watson’s warmup shirt. The high school senior from O’Fallon came to Missouri’s attention last year after her father was put in contact with Martin by Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk. Maher was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in October 2017, the same form of cancer coach Martin was diagnosed with in 1997, which stripped him of his playing career. Maher will be a freshman at Missouri next fall.

Another name close to Columbia’s heart was featured across Tilmon’s shoulders prior to the game – Lizzy Wampler. Wampler lost her battle with cancer on March 15, 2017. She was featured in multiple St. Jude's Hospital commercials, as well as honored at both professional and collegiate sporting events. Former MU forward Michael Porter Jr. wore her name before the 2017 Rally for Rhyan game.

Brad Loos, current Missouri assistant athletic director for major gifts and father of Rhyan, spoke from the court at halftime. He was accompanied by Rhyan, Rylie, the Wampler family and several other children fighting pediatric cancer.

“I found out what true toughness and overcoming adversity looked like by watching Rhyan and all these kids,” Loos said.

Rally for Rhyan has already raised roughly $175,000 for pediatric cancer research through the past three Rally for Rhyan games. This year’s official fundraising amount has yet to be released.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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