The Top Ten Mizzou Basketball Games I've Covered
There is no postseason basketball. There will be no spring sports. There will be no Mizzou sports until August. So each Sunday for the foreseeable future, I'll be taking a look back at some of the highlights of the history of Mizzou sports. Today, I'll start with the ten best Tiger basketball games I've seen in person.
A note on this list: These are only games I have attended since starting this job in August of 2003. At the bottom of the article, I will include some other games that have happened in my lifetime and in my time on the beat which I was not at personally.
10) Mizzou 85, Vanderbilt 82 in OT, 12/8/10
This was before the teams played every season as conference companions in the SEC. Vandy came to Columbia unbeaten at 7-0 while the Tigers were 6-1. The biggest lead by either team all day was six points. Ricardo Ratliffe made two free throws with six seconds left in regulation and Vandy missed a three at the buzzer to force overtime.
Mike Dixon scored to tie the game at 82 with 33 seconds left, but the Commodores were likely to get the final shot. That changed when Marcus Denmon stole the ball along the sideline with eight seconds left, went the other way for a layup and a foul. He made the free throw to give Mizzou an 85-82 lead with five seconds left which held up when Brad Tinsley (who had missed the three at the end of regulation and committed the turnover seconds before) missed a three that would have forced double OT.
Denmon finished with a team-high 21 points, six rebounds and four assists just a day after the death of his cousin in a shooting in Kansas City. No one even knew if Denmon would play. One of the toughest Tigers in program history not only played, but won the game.
9) Mizzou 93, Oklahoma State 92 in 2 OT, 2/24/04
Missouri led by 11 at halftime and by nine with 4:52 to play. The Tigers were outscored 11-2 from that point including a game-tying bucket by Ivan McFarlin with 11 seconds to go to force overtime.
The score was within one possession through the entire first overtime and Thomas Gardner made a three to tie it at 82 with 24 seconds left as the teams went to double OT.
Missouri made just two shots from the field in the second OT, but scored seven points from the line. Arthur Johnson had five points, two rebounds and a block in the final five minutes, including what would end up being the game-winning free throws with 30 seconds to play. Johnson scored 29 and had 13 rebounds while Rickey Paulding led the way with 31 points and six boards in the double OT win.
8) Mizzou 63, Gonzaga 61, 12/30/04
In an otherwise forgettable season, back when people still came to games over Christmas break, the Tigers took out the Bulldogs 63-61 in a game where neither team scored for the final 1:25.
Kevin Young made one of two free throws with 85 seconds to go to put the Tigers up two. After that, Erroll Knight missed a jumper and Ronny Turiaf went 0-2 from the line and missed a jump shot with two seconds left that would have forced overtime.
The Bulldogs would finish the season 26-5, losing as a three seed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Texas Tech while Mizzou would end up juts 19-17. Jason Conley led the Tigers with 16 points and 13 rebounds while Turiaf went 2-15 from the field and sophomore Adam Morrison, who averaged 19 points a game, was held to just 12.
7) Mizzou 62, Kansas 60, 2/9/09
Kansas came in 8-0 in Big 12 play while Mizzou was 7-2 and had to win the game to keep alive any hopes of winning the league. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 30-16 halftime lead in perhaps the worst first half of the Mike Anderson era for the Tigers.
The Jayhawk lead was still 11 with eight minutes to play. Mizzou went on an 8-0 run but fell behind again by seven at the final media timeout after two Cole Aldrich free throws. The Tigers went on a 9-0 run and took the lead on a J.T. Tiller jumper with 48 seconds left before Mario Little countered with a bucket to tie things up at 60 with 29 seconds to go.
All that set the stage for Zaire Taylor, who had beaten Texas with a three-point play with five seconds to go in a tie game just five days earlier. Taylor drove to the right elbow, pulled up and got the home gym roll on a 12-footer to beat Mizzou's rival.
Taylor had just seven points in a game where DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons combined for 35, but "Big Shot" earned his nickname with two game-winners in the span of a week during Missouri's best season in 15 years.
6) Missouri 83, Marquette 79, 3/22/09
Mizzou entered the NCAA Tournament as a three seed and knocked off Cornell with ease in round one. That matched the Tigers up with sixth-seeded Marquette in a rematch of a game six years earlier where the Golden Eagles had beaten the Tigers in overtime on the way to the Final Four.
Five Tigers scored in double figures in the game, led by Leo Lyons with 18, but it was a freshman who stole the show. Kim English went 6-for-8 from the floor and scored 15 points as the Tigers raced to a 46-35 halftime lead. English didn't score another point in the first 19:55 of the second half.
With five seconds to go (after Mizzou had erased a four-point deficit), J.T. Tiller was fouled hard by Jerel McNeal. Tiller was injured and unable to take the free throws. Mike Anderson put English in to shoot the pair (which would help lead to a rule change that the opposition got to choose the shooter in a similar situation going forward). The freshman made both to put Mizzou up two. Lazar Hayward stepped over the end line, turning the ball over on the ensuing possession and Leo Lyons made two free throws for the final margin to push Mizzou into the Sweet 16 against Memphis. The game eased at least a few miserable Mizzou memories of Boise.
5) Missouri 74, Iowa State 59, 11/10/17
This one has little to do with the game. It was fairly non-descript. Missouri beat a bad Iowa State team by 15 points. The Tigers had four players in double figures led by Kevin Puryear with 17. They led by 14 at half and were never really threatened.
But coming off three years in hoops purgatory, Mizzou Arena was sold out because this was the debut of phenom Michael Porter, Jr. The arena was absolutely electric when Porter was introduced for the first time as a college player.
Porter got a rebound and scored his first points as a Tiger on a layup 72 seconds into the game. They would be his only points until the SEC Tournament in March. Just 28 seconds later, Porter would be subbed out. He would not play again in the regular season and would end his career playing in only three games as a Tiger (with this one as the only victory).
Some would argue this game shouldn't be on this list. The Porter era did not go well in Columbia--if it existed at all. But the excitement around the program for seven-and-a-half months exploded during the moments before tipoff in this one. It showed what Mizzou basketball hadn't been for years, but had once been and could be again. Anyone who was there remembers the atmosphere and all the promise that existed for those few fleeing minutes, even if none of it really ever came to fruition.
4) Missouri 90, Baylor 75, 3/10/12
Missouri's final game as a Big 12 team came in the conference tournament championship game against the Bears. Mizzou had put together a magical 30-4 run in Frank Haith's first season using a rotation of just seven players.
The Tigers had kickstarted the year with blowouts of Notre Dame (29 points) and Cal (39) in this same building in November. Mizzou had run over Texas and Oklahoma State in the first two rounds of the tournament and got Baylor in the final after the Bears upset Kansas in the semis the day before.
Missouri led by six at halftime and extended it to 14 on a Matt Pressey putback with 15:43 to play. Baylor would not get closer than five the rest of the game. The Tigers outscored the Bears 13-3 in the final 2:20 as chants of "S-E-C" rang through the Sprint Center from a crowd that was virtually nothing but black and gold.
Ricardo Ratliffe, Phil Pressey and Marcus Denmon all scored 15 points. Mike Dixon had 17 and tournament MVP Kim English had 19 as the winningest class in Mizzou history got its final victory before Mizzou headed off to a new home.
3) Missouri 73, Oklahoma 64, 3/4/09
The Sooners came to Columbia 26-3 and No. 5 in the nation led by national player of the year Blake Griffin. Missouri was in the midst of a 31-win season that would end in the Elite Eight.
Griffin scored 16 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, but the Tigers were led by four players in double figures including Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll with 15 apiece. Oklahoma took the lead on a Taylor Griffin dunk 18 seconds into the game. It was the last time the Sooners would lead all night. Missouri's best team of the last quarter century put together a complete effort in knocking off one of the country's best teams led by the top player in college basketball.
2) Missouri 89, Kansas 86 in OT, 1/16/06
Rarely can a player score 40 points and become a side story, but that's what happened for Thomas Gardner on this night. Gardner hit seven three-pointers and went 13-22 from the field in his best game as a Tiger, but needed some help from the opposition to end up a winner.
With 4/10 of a second left, Jayhawk forward Christian Moody was fouled with the game tied at 77. He went to the line...and missed twice. Kansas led 86-85 with 1:17 left in overtime, but Gardner's three free throws and one from Jimmy McKinney were the only points the rest of the way as Missouri came out with a win in one of the loudest environments in Mizzou Arena history.
The Tigers got just one point off the bench (from Leo Lyons), but managed to come out with a win thanks to Gardner's 40, 19 from McKinney, 14 from Kevin Young and 12 from Marshall Brown...and two missed free throws.
1) Missouri 74, Kansas 71, 2/4/12 and Kansas 87, Missouri 76, 2/25/12
These games cannot be separated. Forever, they are linked. The final two games in one of college basketball's most heated rivalries more than lived up to the hype.
In round one, the Tigers trailed 71-63 after a Tyshawn Taylor dunk with 3:25 to play. And then Marcus Denmon stole the show. Denmon made a layup and a free throw to cut the lead to five with 2:07 left. He made a three-pointer to cut it to two 35 seconds later. Just 37 seconds after that, he made another triple. Nine points in 1:12 put Mizzou ahead 72-71.
From there, Tyshawn Taylor missed two free throws and was called for a charge taken by Mizzou's Steve Moore. Mike Dixon made a pair of free throws, Elijah Johnson missed a three at the buzzer and Mizzou won the game with an 11-0 run at the end.
The winner of the second matchup between the teams would win the Big 12 regular season title and in all likelihood wrap up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri played perhaps its best half of the season, racing to a 44-32 halftime lead capped by a Marcus Denmon three with 13 seconds left in the half. Denmon capped a 14-7 run to open the second half with another three and the Tigers were up 19...the biggest deficit of the season for Kansas.
But the Jayhawks would come all the way back to tie it at 75 before Phil Pressey drove the lane and was mugged (I mean had his shot blocked) by Thomas Robinson with two seconds to play.
Missouri fought valiantly in overtime and actually led 86-85 with eight seconds left. But Pressey was called for a foul that sent Tyshawn Taylor to the line where he made both. Missouri did not get a shot off (in the ultimate cruelty that I did not realize until watching the video, Denmon's shot actually went in for what would have been a win, but clearly came after the buzzer) and lost its final visit to Allen Fieldhouse as a member of the Big 12 by a point.
Both games featured a comeback for the ages by the home team. Both featured a whistle that the visitors thought went the wrong way and changed the game. But as a set, these two games were as good as sports can get.
Some other honorable mention games
The double overtime win over Kansas in 1996 on a Corey Tate jump shot was my sophomore year in college. I covered that game for KOMU-TV. I also saw Tim Duncan and Wake Forest come to CoMo and remember a more-than-capacity crown when Luke Recker, Reggie Evans and Iowa came to town. The 2009 Sweet Sixteen win over Memphis was the single-best big-game performance I've ever seen out of a Missouri team, but I didn't cover it in person (finances were tighter then). There have been plenty of other standouts, but the ten listed above were the ten best I've seen in person in the last 17 years.