By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
It’s Missouri Southern men’s basketball coach Robert Corn’s favorite weekend of the nonconference schedule.
The Lions host the Freeman Sports Medicine-Chris Tucker Memorial Classic today and Saturday at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. The event is named in honor of Tucker, former All-American center for the Lions who was killed in an automobile accident in July 1994.
“Having Mr. (Harvey) Tucker (Chris’ father) and the Tucker family come back is so special because Chris was such a special young man and a big part of our program,” Corn said. “When you look and talk about what Missouri Southern men’s basketball is all about, hopefully people will think of Chris Tucker because he epitomizes what a college student-athlete is all about.
“He was so well respected in the community. He was so well respected on our campus and so respected by opposing coaches and opposing players. I never heard anybody say a bad word about Chris Tucker.”
The game times this year have been changed because the arena is being used tonight for opening ceremonies for this weekend’s NCAA Division II cross country championships. As a result, Pittsburg State and Lincoln begin the classic today at noon, and the Lions meet Avila at 2 p.m. Saturday’s session, like in past years, begins at 5 p.m.
The Lions opened their season one week ago with an 83-63 victory over John Brown University. Returning starters Marquis Addison and Jordan Talbert tallied 23 and 22 points, respectively, and redshirt freshman center Greg Renfroe added 12 points in his Lion debut.
“We played well,” Corn said. “Obviously we took a spurt in the second half when we didn’t play as well, particularly defensively. But all in all, for it being our first game of the year and having a lot of new players, we came out and did some good things.”
With approximately half of the roster being new players, the week of practice between games was beneficial for the Lions.
“You need to make sure you correct things that needed to be corrected,” Corn said. “Plus, we have guys still battling for playing time. To see them go against each other gives you a gauge on which way to go as far as your rotation.”
Pittsburg State won its opener 88-67 over Baker on Tuesday night behind 20 points and nine rebounds from Rico Pierrevilus, 16 points from Kaleb Porter and 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals from A.J. Adams.
Avila improved its record to 2-1 with an 82-71 victory over William Woods on Tuesday.
“Rodney Perry is pretty much a man-to-man, hard pressure-type coach,” Corn said. “As a matter of fact, his guards are his two leading rebounders. It will be a challenge for our guards to box those guys out, and a lot of times guards aren’t accustomed to doing that. We have to make sure we get the long rebounds and not let the pressure bother us.”
Lincoln is 1-2, with its victory an 86-72 decision over McKendree. The Blue Tigers have only three returning players from last year.
Four players average in double figures — Charles Cole 14.7, Cedric Ridle 13.3, Sean Harris 12.0 and Shakir Preston 11.7. Ridle also averages 8.0 rebounds, and Preston averages 4.3 assists.
“It’s an MIAA opponent, so we can gauge where we are in regard to the conference,” Corn said. “They are athletic. They can present a lot of problems for you. It’s going to be very important for us to do a good job executing our offense and be solid defensively.”