Hanneman, Johnson say it was defense

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Two Missouri women's basketball players suspended after an early morning fight said they were defending a female friend from her aggressive male roommate.

Columbia police released further details Monday about the pre-dawn Friday fight that led to the arrests and suspensions of leading scorers Amanda Hanneman and Jessra Johnson.

The players told officers that after their 49-point home win over Texas-Pan American, they celebrated at a bar and then an after-hours party at an apartment. They said things got ugly at about 2 a.m., when Missouri cheerleader Justin Short got into a fight with his female roommate.

According to police, Hanneman and Johnson said Short physically restrained his roommate before they intervened. Johnson admitted pushing Short and Hanneman admitted "slapping and punching" the cheerleader, police said. The unnamed female roommate gave investigators a similar account.

The teammates were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and could face criminal charges if Boone County prosecutors find enough evidence to move forward.

Police spokeswoman Jessie Haden said Short suffered a swollen nose and cuts near his left eye. A police report noted "dried blood on his face and shirt."

Missouri coach Cindy Stein suspended both players after the incident. On Sunday, the short-handed Tigers (7-2) beat Murray State 71-32 at Mizzou Arena. The team next plays at home on Dec. 21 against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Stein apologized after Sunday's game to the "community and our athletic administration and our whole Mizzou nation on the perception that these allegations have caused our fans, friends, everybody."

She declined to answer further questions from reporters but said "we will be able to discuss this at a more appropriate time when we know more."

Short, a senior cheerleader for the Missouri football and men's basketball teams, has also been suspended from athletic activities, school spokesman Chad Moller said Monday. Short did not respond to messages left on his cell phone seeking comment.

Johnson, a 6-foot-1 senior forward from Fayette, has an average of 14.1 points per game this season. Hanneman, a 5-foot-11 forward from Blue Springs, averages 13.3 points per game and is the team's leading 3-point shooter with nearly half of the team's total points beyond the arc.

Hanneman's mother said her daughter was "extremely upset" about the suspension after struggling with a back injury and surgery for two broken feet during her first three seasons.

"This was the first year she was even able to play and show people what she can do," Betsy Hanneman said.