clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NOTEBOOK: Missouri ‘rallying’ for matchup with Arkansas

The fifth annual Rally for Rhyan game is here, and the Tigers are looking to extend its Rally win streak to five.

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Half-a-million dollars in about five years. Brad Loos never expected his family’s vision to reach this level.

Loos’ daughter, Rhyan, was diagnosed with leukemia as a kindergartener during the 2015-16 school year. When the news hit the Missouri community, Loos, then an assistant coach in the men’s basketball program, saw the support Rhyan received. However, he also saw the parents of other pediatric cancer patients struggling to make ends meet.

He knew he needed to do something to help, and that’s where the Rally for Rhyan game was born. The Loos family’s goal was to raise $10,000 for pediatric cancer research, so the $500,000 that the fund has received through donations and through the annual game is beyond what Loos could have imagined.

Since the first Rally for Rhyan game on Feb. 13, 2016 — a 75-64 win over Tennessee — the Tigers have compiled a 4-0 record in Rally for Rhyan games, and Rhyan Loos will be there to support the team, 38 months cancer-free.

“She’s a miracle to say the least, and I’m biased because she’s my daughter, but I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Loos said. “She’s overcome a ton of adversity, and now she’s just a regular little nine-year-old girl, which I think is pretty cool.”

Though the annual game started prior to head coach Cuonzo Martin’s arrival, Martin felt a personal connection with the Loos family. Martin has been cancer-free since 1998 after a bout with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and knowing the struggles the family of a cancer patient can go through, Martin decided to do his part to keep Rally for Rhyan alive after the regime change.

“For (Rhyan), again, continue to stay clean, but the fight for her friends and young kids all across the world, I think that’s very important,” Martin said. “This is something, you should always have a packed house, and I think you should have a packed house anyway, but this is something that affects everybody, and I think it’s very important that we all get involved.”

Only two players remain on the roster from Loos’ time coaching within the program — Reed Nikko and Mitchell Smith, who were part of the last recruiting class prior to Kim Anderson’s exit.

They both hold this game close and consider it of utmost important, and Nikko grew especially close to the Loos family, since Loos was the one who recruited him to Missouri. Since the team is now stocked with younger players, they don’t have that familiarity with Brad and Rhyan Loos.

But Nikko makes sure each and every player in the program knows what a win over Arkansas on Saturday would mean to the Tiger community.

“That’s something that I’ve tried kind of to tell guys around here, like, ‘Hey, we don’t lose this game.’ Just because, knowing that these guys weren’t around when Rhyan was going through all the stuff she went through with us being a younger team now,” Nikko said. “But I think it’s definitely important that we bring energy and fight for something bigger than ourselves.”

Tilmon, Mark Smith still recovering

Jeremiah Tilmon guesstimates that he’s at about 80% since a foot injury that put him out indefinitely prior to Missouri’s loss to Tennessee on Jan 7. Though he admitted he’s not even sure that that’s the right percentage, any percentage is fine for him as long as he can be out on the court.

Tilmon played just 12 minutes during Tuesday’s loss to Texas A&M, his first game action in exactly a month, scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds. The stats weren’t the most important thing to him, though. Just getting back in the game and staying healthy was enough for him to consider it a success.

“I feel like I’m doing a lot better than what I was doing at first because I’ve been in the weight room a lot, I’ve been getting like a ton of treatment,” Tilmon said. “So I’m really emphasizing just getting better and taking it serious.”

“The key after that game was maybe 10 minutes, 10-12 minutes, and we had him at 11 minutes and 54 seconds,” Martin added. “I thought he had good energy, I thought he was excited to be out there. ... We try to do a good job of managing his time.”

Though Tilmon will most likely be on the floor Saturday, Martin said Mark Smith is still a game-time decision.

Smith was held out of the second half of the Jan. 28 win against Georgia with was deemed a lower back injury, and he hasn’t played in either game since the calendar flipped to February. Smith is practicing mostly sideline drills at the moment — though Martin said the team isn’t doing too many up and down drills anyway — but is still trying to work his way back onto the court.

Rebounding, fouling key areas of focus

The loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday highlighted some of the areas Missouri has struggled recently.

The Tigers have lost the fouling battle in the last two games and lost the rebounding battle in the last three, even the comeback win over the Bulldogs. Against the Aggies, these issues were even more glaring, as Missouri committed 32 fouls compared to Texas A&M’s 19 and got outrebounded — even with Mitchell Smith’s 11 boards — 23-11 on the offensive glass and 49-30 overall.

“I think one of,” Nikko said when asked if the Aggies’ offensive rebounding was the most troubling thing to come out of the loss. “That falls largely on me. I can’t allow offensive rebounds like that, we can’t let guys come in and get 10-plus on the glass.”

Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks are not a good rebounding team, ranking 271st in the nation in OR% defensively and 337th in OR% offensively according to KenPom and 311th in total rebounds, and the fact that not a single scholarship player stands above 6-foot-8 bodes well for the Tigers.

But that, along with limiting fouls against players that love to drive the lane, needs to be a focus if Missouri is going to extend its Rally for Rhyan streak to five.