A thousand miles away from Mizzou Arena, there was a touch of home court advantage.
For senior Ricardo Ratliffe, it was a homecoming game.
The Missouri men’s basketball team defeated old Dominion (Norfolk, Va.) 75-68 just 20 miles from his hometown and high school in Hampton, Va.
It was a family affair at the sold-out game. in the stands was his mother and brother, his cousins, nieces, nephews and aunt. on the court was his cousin.
Early in the second half, Ratliffe stepped to the free throw line after his cousin, redshirt-freshman Dimitri Batten, committed a shooting foul against him.
Also playing for the Monarchs were two of Ratliffe’s former AAU teammates, redshirt junior Nick Wright and sophomore Donte Hill.
“When I’m home I play with the two of them to make sure I’m keeping up with good players,” Ratliffe said by phone.
For Ratliffe’s mother, Kismyt, it was only the fifth time she has seen her son playing live as a Tiger. she couldn’t attend many more than that when Ratliffe was in high school due to osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that made sitting in the basketball stands painful.
“My mother is in the stands and I just want to play better,” Ratliffe said. “It’s strictly a confidence booster.”
At the game’s end the teams shook hands, but Ratliffe went for hugs instead. and after that he had more hugging to do. he said he hugged about 20 people in the 10 minutes he had to visit before the team bus left.
With 14 points with 11 rebounds, it was a double double-digit night for Ratliffe, who was one of four Tigers scoring double-digits. Senior Marcus Denmon led Missouri with 19 points and senior Kim English and sophomore Phil Pressey each scored 14.
Playing only four hours from his hometown Baltimore, Md., Ratliffe said English also had a number of family and friends in the stand. Making three of his four 3-point attempts, he shot 75 percent behind the three-point arc.
No. 8-ranked Missouri played its final non-conference game against an unranked team, and Ratliffe also thinks they are underrated.
“They took us to the wire and people think we’re a pretty good team,” Ratliffe said.
Missouri finished the first half behind 35-33. it was the first time this season it trailed at halftime. At nine different times, the game was tied.
With just over a minute left, the Tigers and Monarchs were tied 67-67. Denmon received a pass in the right corner from sophomore Phil Pressey, shot and scored for three. When asked about the hasty play, coach Frank Haith smiled.
“What do you want me to say,” he said. “He made it. We’ll take that shot most nights.”
Denmon went on to score five points in the final minute of the game.
The Tigers begin conference play against Oklahoma (9-2) on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at Mizzou Arena.
“We’re really happy with 13 wins heading into conference play, but we understand that none of those wins matter,” Denmon said.