As the Tigers rolled to 10-1 with a 116-63 home win over Central Arkansas last Saturday, Tiger fans tempted to be looking ahead to Wednesday’s showdown with Illinois had to at least pause to consider the prodigious point total the Tigers ran up, the most points a team has ever scored in the Tigers’ seven seasons in Mizzou Arena.
Though it was in some ways just another big win against an overmatched nonconference opponent, it was still a 53-point win. The 10-1 Oklahoma State Cowboys only won by 12 against Central Arkansas, and OSU scored 47 fewer points than Missouri did against coach Corliss Williamson’s UCA squad.
That name, Corliss Williamson, will tell you why the Tigers scheduled this game with Central Arkansas, a team trying to lift itself out of the Southland Conference basement in Williamson’s second season as head coach. Williamson was the star player on the great Arkansas teams of the 1990s, including the 1994 National Champions. Missouri coach Mike Anderson was an assistant coach for Arkansas under Nolan Richardson on those teams.
Williamson the player and Anderson the assistant coach developed a friendship during their shared time at Arkansas, where the team succeeded using Richardson’s famed “40 Minutes of Hell” style of play, with its frantic pace, full-court pressure and up-tempo style. Anderson employed the system in his first head-coaching job, at Alabama-Birmingham, and now his teams use it at Missouri, where they call it the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.”
Williamson is working to have his teams play this way, too. He knows Central Arkansas likely won’t reel in the best recruits, but this system can harass and overwhelm opponents with better physical talents. It could also help Williamson’s Bears make that move in the Southland Conference. He wanted to give his team a chance to play against a good team playing the “40 Minutes of Hell” style well. Anderson is building the Mizzou program with system, and Williamson wanted his players to learn from how the Tigers play.
The Tigers put on a fine demonstration, with seven Missouri players scoring in double figures, the first time since 1995 that they’ve done that.
For Anderson, basketball and family, or the family-like ties he develops, go hand-in-hand. He has said he talks with Richardson about every other day. Anderson is certainly building his own program his own way, but he hasn’t forgotten what he’s learned from his mentor Richardson, and he keeps in touch.
You can also see these ties to friends and family in Anderson’s recruiting. His son and nephew have played for him. The nephew, DeMarre Carroll, is arguably the most accomplished player in Anderson’s tenure at Missouri.
Two of Missouri’s new players this year, Matt and Phil Pressey, are the sons of former NBA player Paul Pressey, who was Anderson’s college roommate.
And, simply by being himself with his genuine style, Anderson continues to make the new connections that build the program, as is seen in the other players in this great recruiting class who aren’t the offspring of his old roommates.
After Wednesday's matchup with Illinois in St. Louis, the Missouri basketball family will take a break for Christmas before returning to action on Dec. 27 against Northern Illinois.