If the animosity that has developed between Arkansas and Missouri eventually becomes a full-fledged rivalry someday, fans of both teams may remember Tuesday's 93-63 rout by the Tigers as when it was born.
Missouri had already opened up a double-digit lead midway through the first half when Tigers coach Frank Haith and Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson appeared to get into a sideline shouting match. It's unclear what either coach said, but TV cameras caught Haith glaring at his Arkansas counterpart as Missouri assistant coaches restrained him and Anderson smirked in the background.
The animosity led to an icy postgame handshake and an animated conversation between Haith and Anderson, but ESPN cameras cut away too quickly to allow viewers to see the entirety of the exchange. Asked earlier in the telecast what caused the dispute, Haith tried to downplay it, telling ESPN sideline reporter Shannon Spake, "It's just emotions. I want our guys to play harder."
Haith told the Kansas City Star earlier this week he considers Anderson "a good friend." Both Haith and Anderson blamed the dispute on "a miscommunication" after the game, but neither went into greater detail.
The disagreement between the coaches could stem from repeated comments Anderson has made taking credit for leaving Haith with a roster he believes "probably could have contended for a Final Four." Haith led a team of Anderson holdovers to a Big 12 tournament title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament last year, but the Tigers fell in the opening round to 15th-seeded Norfolk State.
Although Anderson indeed recruited the likes of Phil Pressey, Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe and Kim English, it's unlikely he'd have achieved the same success with last year's team that Haith did. Anderson had lost the support of some of his veteran players by the end of the 2010-11 season, contributing to the team dropping five of its final six games and falling meekly to Cincinnati in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
English, the most open critic of Anderson, made it clear on Twitter that Tuesday's game was personal to him.
"Reconcile by Winning! Destroy those dudes. No mercy! Blow em out!" he tweeted to his former teammates before the game. He later added "Boo that man!" when Missouri fans greeted Anderson rudely as he emerged from the tunnel and "Don't stop!" as the Tigers lengthened their lead to 26 at halftime.
"Such a weird feeling," English wrote. "Because I LOVE Melvin Watkins, Matt Zimmerman, Tj Cleveland, Jeff Daniels, David Deets and Will Bartlett like family."
That Missouri came through for English and put a hurting on Arkansas is no surprise considering the Tigers' home success and the Razorbacks' road futility.
Missouri is unbeaten at home this season. Arkansas now falls to 1-9 in road games after Tuesday's loss.
Haith clearly was especially amped up for this game, especially in the first half when he was far more emotional than usual on the sideline. When Missouri's lead reached 20 points late in the first half, he approached the student section, clapped and gestured for them to get even louder.
The Missouri students responded with a chant that had to be soothing for a coach whose unexpected hire was unpopular in spring 2011.
Chanted the crowd, "Faith in Haith."