The Missouri basketball team had gone an entire month without winning a game, a losing streak that stretched to nine games and ranked among the longest droughts in program history.
The Tigers were finally able to end that dubious streak on Saturday.
Missouri used a strong start, another big effort from forwards Ryan Rosburg and Kevin Puryear and some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to beat visiting Tennessee Volunteers 75-64 in a Southeastern Conference game at Mizzou Arena.
"Obviously a great win for our guys," Missouri coach Kim Anderson told reporters. "I am really proud of the way we responded. We hung in there and obviously these two guys (Rosburg and Puryear) made some great plays. I think this is a meaningful day for a lot of reasons. I do want to thank the athletic department and everybody who made today possible."
The Tigers had a season-high 10,536 fans in attendance in support of “Rally For Rhyan.” Rhyan Loos, the 5-year-old daughter of Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos, is battling neuroblastoma, a form of cancer found in young children.
The school raised $50,000 on Saturday to fight pediatric cancer. Rhyan Loos, following the Tigers’ win, was given the game ball.
"Today was awesome," Rosburg told reporters. "It was so special all around. You could tell everyone had a little more pep in their step today. It was an amazing environment with the fan support. Having the whole community rally around this little girl and our team. We appreciate it so much and I know that the Loos' appreciate it. To finally finish that game off was just a great feeling."
Rosburg, the Tigers’ lone senior, followed up his back-to-back career-best scoring performances with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Puryear, a freshman, added 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Mizzou, which also got 13 points from sophomore guard Namon Wright, improved to 9-16 overall and 2-10 in SEC play. The Tigers shot 54.5 percent from the field vs. the Volunteers after shooting just 37.5 percent in their 86-71 loss at Vanderbilt on Wednesday.
Tennessee (12-13, 5-7 SEC) was led by senior guard Kevin Punter, who scored 21 points on 5-of-13 shooting and made nine of 13 free throws. Senior guard Devon Baulkman added 17 points, including four 3-pointers, and freshman guard Shembari Phillips scored 10.
"I think you have to give the Missouri basketball team all the credit," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told reporters. "They came out knowing it was a game that they could probably win. I know what it is like to struggle. They have not won a game in a while. Every time we tried to get back in the game, we had some missed free throws, turnovers and those types of things.
"One of the big things we saw coming was that we could not let them get to the free throw line. They did a great job and you have to give them credit. I have a lot of respect for Kim. He walked into a tough situation, but they certainly made the right hire. He got it turned around. I know a lot about this program, it has great traditions and he is restoring it back to where people want to see it."
Missouri led by as many as 14 points in the first half and took a 38-27 advantage into halftime.
The Tigers never trailed after the first few minutes of the game, though it felt like down the stretch the Volunteers could make a run to take the lead.
Tennessee trimmed the deficit to just four points with 1:25 remaining on a layup by Baulkman, but Mizzou responded by scoring the final seven points of the game — sinking five of six free throw attempts, grabbing three defensive rebounds and then getting a dunk from Rosburg with nine seconds left.
"When it gets close at the end of games like that I would say that composure is the most important factor," Puryear told reporters. "You see sometimes where teams get rattled, but I think we did a good job of staying together and staying composed, knocking our free throws down and hitting some shots down the stretch. That was really great for us. I think once we told ourselves that we just needed to stay calm that definitely helped us."