One State, One Spirit Classic Puts Joplin in the SpotlightPosted by dnspewak on November 1st, 2011
On the surface, Sunday’s One State, One Spirit Classic between Missouri and Missouri Southern in Joplin, Missouri, looked a lot like an exhibition basketball game.
The coaches stomped around the sidelines in protest of the officiating. The players dove on the floor, drew charges, dished out assists and threw down a few dunks. But there was something different about this event. The atmosphere was festive, but the emotion of the Joplin tornado in May still lingered. When the public address announcer called for a moment of silence for the victims, nobody moved an inch. This wasn’t a detached gesture. Not here. Not inside the Legett and Platt Athletic Center, which sat thousands of people who lost their homes, businesses and loved ones last spring.
Preseason #25 Missouri won by 46 points, but nobody cared. Not even the Tigers. All eyes were on the Lions, the tornado victims, and, most importantly, the relief effort. As both MU guard Marcus Denmon and coach Frank Haith mentioned after the game, most of the crowd cheered on every basket— by both teams. The atmosphere was festive, upbeat and positive, a stark contrast to the solemn aftermath of the tornado.
Fame was everywhere. ESPNU brought Missouri alum John Anderson and color commentator Fran Fraschilla. Governor Jay Nixon even made an appearance with a pre-game locker room speech. The final result didn’t count toward the standings, but there will never be a more important basketball game on the Missouri Southern campus. In terms of basketball, it’s obvious that Missouri Southern deserves its Top 10 Division II ranking. The Lions move the ball well, they play solid help defense and they’re extremely well-coached. As coach Robert Corn mentioned, though, Missouri’s quickness and size simply overwhelmed his players.
The theme for MU was change. The Tigers were still pushing the pace offensively, but they employed no fullcourt pressure and their half-court offense looked like a revolution. Haith’s offense called for on-ball screens and pick-and-rolls on every trip. Missouri’s players appeared to be comfortable with the style and also ran a lot of Haith’s new sets. It’s impossible to tell how this will translate to Division I opponents, but the acclimation process has begun.
Again, though, basketball was secondary on Sunday night. And everybody in the building entered the afternoon with that expectation.