Missouri beat Missouri Southern 106-60 on Sunday night, but the final score wasn’t what mattered.
The $100,000 did.
That’s what the game, dubbed the One State, One Spirit Classic, raised for Joplin, MO, the town where Missouri Southern is located. Its also the town that was absolutely devastated by an F5 tornado on May 22nd, a storm that killed 116 people and completely wiped sections of Joplin off the map. Missouri Southern is not a bad basketball team — they are ranked in the top five in Division II and have a couple of players that looked like they could get minutes for the Tigers — but this game wasn’t played for the competition, as Dana O’Neil explains:
Each person in the sellout crowd represented a donation, as did the T-shirts sold at the concessions and the commemorative chairs auctioned during the game. More than money, though, Missouri brought a welcome distraction for a community that is still clearing debris and rebuilding five months later. When Haith dreamed up this game, he did it with the attention of redirecting attention back to Joplin once the news trucks left and the next big story came along.
And that’s precisely what this game did, even briefly. The news cycle keeps on spinning, so while all the attention was on Joplin when the storm struck, eventually the stories get repetitive and news breaks elsewhere. People move on and forget, and that’s something that Frank Haith didn’t to let happen.
He gets the credit for this game, by the way. It was his idea to play this game and his effort to get it cleared by the NCAA.
In terms of actual basketball, Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon both played well in the back court, but Missouri’s Achilles’ heel was abundantly clear. Without Laurence Bowers, they are small. Kim English played a lot of four last night, and while he held his own, only time will tell if the same will be true in the meat of the Big 12 schedule. The potential is there for this team to be successful, but its going to depend on how well they are able to make up for that lack of size inside.