COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Kim Anderson didn't have this in mind when he signed on to return to his alma mater as its head coach in April.
After leading Central Missouri to a 30-5 record last season en route to a Division II title, the 1977 Big Eight Player of the Year and former Missouri assistant watched his team lose its season opener to Missouri-Kansas City 69-61 on Friday.
"The good thing about college basketball is it's not like football," Anderson said. "You've got one day to prepare, and if you go feel sorry for yourself, you're going to get beat again."
Freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar led the Tigers with 21 points while Wes Clark added 13. The Tigers returned just 22 percent of their scoring from a 23-12 season that ended in March with a second-round loss in the NIT. Four freshmen received significant playing time against UMKC.
Martez Harrison scored 26 points and Shayok Shayok added 10 to lead Missouri-Kansas City, which used two 10-2 runs in the opening half to help build a 33-24 lead at the break and then nursed its advantage throughout the final 20 minutes.
The Kangaroos last beat a power conference team in December 2003 (Kansas State) and haven't finished above .500 in a season since 2004-05.
Harrison, the reigning WAC Freshman of the Year, averaged 17.2 points per game last season and single-handedly kept UMKC in the lead at times against the Tigers, scoring seven consecutive points midway through the second half.
"I'm not going to sit here and try to fool anybody, it's big for the program," second-year coach Kareem Richardson said. "But it can't be the biggest for us this year."
After an authoritative, two-handed dunk by Gill-Caesar with 4:54 left narrowed Missouri's deficit to 57-53, Harrison answered with a layup on the other end to start a 4-0 UMKC run.
The Tigers would get no closer than five the rest of the way.
Missouri led for just 34 seconds, grabbing a 3-2 advantage on a free throw by Ryan Rosburg 3:37 into the game. The team trailed by 11 in the first half against Missouri-St. Louis in its second exhibition game on Nov. 8, and Anderson said afterward the deficit would be beneficial to the Tigers.
But there would be no comeback this time.
"I knew it wouldn't be easy," Anderson said. "I knew there would be challenges. We'll regroup. Hopefully this will be a good experience."