Anderson downplays second return to Missouri
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP)
Michael Qualls remembers the atmosphere inside Mizzou Arena last season all too well, even if he'd like to forget the result.
''It was crazy; I felt the hate,'' Qualls said. ''It's just a crazy atmosphere. You can tell it (was about) things more than basketball.''
Those ''things'' the Razorbacks guard referred to were actually one thing, in particular - Mike Anderson.
The former Missouri coach faced a hostile and rowdy environment in his return to Columbia, Mo., last season, a game in which the Tigers (16-7, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) ran all over Anderson and Arkansas on the way to a 93-63 victory.
Anderson will make his second return since leaving Missouri following the 2010-11 season when the Razorbacks (15-8, 4-6) face the suddenly struggling Tigers on Thursday night.
Anderson has tried to downplay the significance of his second trip back to the place he called home for five seasons. Now in his third season with Arkansas, Anderson was 111-57 while with the Tigers before returning to the school where he was an assistant for 17 seasons. Still, a sellout crowd of 15,061 is again possible this time around.
''I'm sure they're going to be rooting their team,'' Anderson said. ''They'll boo any coach that comes with any team that comes in there. That's what they're supposed to do. That's just part of it.''
Missouri already has one win over Arkansas this season, a 75-71 victory that snapped the school's 0-for-6 stretch inside Bud Walton Arena.
However, the Tigers - losers of three straight after Saturday's loss at Mississippi - haven't won since, and coach Frank Haith isn't about to let Missouri exude overconfidence because of the earlier win.
''There's no way we can go into this game thinking that way,'' Haith said. ''We understand we were fortunate to beat a good team on the road. Those things are hard to do. We're going to get a very determined, very passionate ball club in here on Thursday, and we've got to be ready to play.''
While Missouri's NCAA tournament hopes have taken a hit with their recent woes, Arkansas managed to rekindle its postseason thoughts last week with a pair of wins - including its first road win of the season at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Razorbacks had lost four of five games before their last two wins, a streak that started behind Bobby Portis' 35-point outburst against Alabama last week.
The freshman leads Arkansas with averages of 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, and he'll be counted on to help improve against a Missouri team that has outrebounded the Razorbacks 86-45 over the last two meetings.
''I think it was good for us to get a road win, because that gave us a ton of confidence to build upon going into this Missouri game,'' Portis said.
Anderson said Arkansas is ''a different team'' than when it lost to the Tigers at home two weeks ago. He'll have the chance to see exactly how different on Thursday night against his former school, which has developed a rivalry with the Razorbacks since joining the SEC last season.
''I feel like if we had to name a rival school, they would be the most type of rival school we have on our (schedule),'' Qualls said.