Mizzou loses battle but wins its quest for respect
DEC 09, 2013 10:08a ET
The questions started almost immediately after Missouri beat Texas A&M to clinch a berth in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Gary Pinkel was asked time and time and time again throughout the week about the turnaround from 2012 to 2013 , and just about every time he was asked the Tigers' coach came back to the same theme.
Pinkel wanted his football program to be respected.
"That's really important to me," he said. "Not only to be respected for winning our games, but for also graduating our players, doing the right things with kids and the right things with people. Just a total respect for the whole operation here, and you know, last year was a difficult one. You take a hit but you get back to work, and that's what we did. Not just me, but everybody."
Mizzou didn't win the SEC championship on Saturday, but it's safe to say the program won a measure of respect in its 59-42 loss to Auburn at the Georgia Dome.
Yes, these Tigers belong in the SEC. And, yes, they are planning to be a factor in the 14-team super conference going forward.
It will be a constant battle, of course. The long-time league members won't be happy after watching the new kid on the block win the SEC East this fall.
Mizzou will host Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Arkansas next season and go on the road to play South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Tennessee. The Tigers beat six of those teams this season.
Missouri (11-2) has one more challenge remaining this season in playing Oklahoma State (10-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 3 in Arlington, Texas. The teams were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, going into games on Saturday and Oklahoma State, like Mizzou, should be motivated to close the 2013 campaign with a positive result.
"We just turned this program around like we wanted to," running back Henry Josey told reporters Sunday night. "So, that was something that was in our goals. We've gotten there and we are very happy as a team to be where we're at."
Wide receiver L'Damian Washington said the Tigers aren't done yet.
"That was our goal at the beginning of the year, just to get Mizzou back in the old traditional way of winning, and I think we've done that this year," he said. "Our goals aren't over; we've got to win the bowl game. We want to win 12 games this year, and I think whenever you can go into a season and can win 12 games, it's a successful season."
MIZZOU DROPS IN RANKINGS
Even with a loss in the Cotton Bowl, Missouri will finish the season ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since the 2010 season, and the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Mizzou did drop when the rankings were released Sunday.
The Tigers fell from No. 5 to No. 8 in the BCS Standings and fell from fifth to ninth in the Associated Press Top 25, USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll.
A win in the Cotton Bowl would mean the Tigers will finish in the Top 10 for the first time since the 2007 season, when they went 12-2, won the Big 12 North and beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
VOLLEYBALL TEAM UPSET
Not long after the football team lost in Atlanta on Saturday, the Mizzou volleyball team's dream season ended with a 3-1 upset loss to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the Hearnes Center. The Tigers finished the season with a 35-1 record.
"Obviously, this hurts, but I thought our kids did a great job of battling and staying with it all night," coach Wayne Kreklow told reporters. "No one in that locker room should walk out with their head held low. What they accomplished this season was remarkable. They beat everyone on their schedule until tonight. In sports, sometimes it's just not your night, and that was the case tonight. I am so proud of what these kids did all year, and the mark that Molly (Kreklow) and Lisa (Henning) left on this program is remarkable."
Kreklow and Henning, Mizzou's dynamic senior duo, finished their four-year careers with 97 wins, the school's best stretch of the NCAA tournament era.
MEN'S HOOPS MOVES INTO TOP 25
With everything that transpired Saturday night, it was easy to forget about what the Mizzou basketball team did earlier in the day.
Coach Frank Haith's squad scored its first victory over a ranked team this season when the Tigers defeated visiting No. 18 UCLA 80-71.
It hasn't always been pretty, but Mizzou is now 9-0 -- the second 9-0 start of the Haith era -- going into its non-conference contest against visiting Western Michigan (5-3) on Sunday night. The Tigers will then meet Illinois (8-1) in the Braggin' Rights Game the following Saturday in St. Louis.
Missouri is the only unbeaten team in the Southeastern Conference. It broke into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season when rankings were released Monday, checking in at No. 24. The Tigers are 22nd in the RPI rankings.
The Tigers are averaging 80.4 points per game, which ranks fifth among SEC schools, and are allowing 66.4, which ranks seventh.
The trio of Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross has led the way. Clarkson is averaging a team-high 20.2 points and 3.8 assists per game. Brown is averaging 19.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. Ross is averaging 14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
"They're very talented," UCLA coach Steve Alford said Saturday. "Clarkson is very, very special. And he's getting a lot of interest, and he should. He's a very talented point guard. Then you've got the other two who can hurt you in a lot of ways -- they're big, they're physical. It's the first time we've really had to match physicality with our guards. ... I thought those three were a big part of their success."
Clarkson was honored by College Sports Madness website on Monday as its national player of the week after he averaged 23 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals in wins over West Virginia and UCLA last week. He also was named the SEC's Player of the Week.
WOMEN'S HOOPS BREAKS RECORD
The Mizzou women's basketball team broke the school record for points in a game when it defeated visiting Bradley 126-55 on Sunday.
The Tigers, who improved to 9-1, were led by 27 points from Bri Kulas and 21 points, on seven 3-pointers, from Morgan Stock off the bench.
Mizzou made 18 3-pointers, and Stock and her twin sister, Maddie, knocked down 11 of them.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at email@example.com.
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