(You had to figure Bob Sundvold’s team would keep it close.)
November 29, 1993
By DAVID HOLZMAN of the Tribune's staff
The Hearnes Center spent most of last night in a collective state of shock.
Freshman Kelly Thames was finally able to bring the Tigers and the fans around as Missouri beat Central Missouri State 69-66 in a down-to-the wire test of nerves.
Thames' 19 points and 12 rebounds were both game highs. The Tigers trailed most of the night, by as much as 14 points in the first half.
Thames' two free throws with 3:48 to play gave Missouri a 62-61 lead. The Tigers (1-0) managed to hold on from that point.
“We were outplayed, we were outprepared and we were outcoached, but we won the game,” Missouri coach Norm Stewart said.
It was a night for the younger set. Bob Sundvold, now in his second season as Mules coach after 13 years as an assistant to Stewart, came quite close to pulling off the Show-Me State shocker with his NCAA Division II team.
He couldn't quite accept Stewart's comment about outcoaching. “That's nice of him, but I don't know,” Sundvold said. “I had chances, and I think I should have done something differently. I don't know.
“I'm really happy for the way our players played. It's just a missed opportunity.”
The Mules (1-1) never quit knocking.
They led for the final 18:03 of the first half and built it to 14 points three times, the last being 28-14 with 7:27 left. The Tigers closed to 36-31 at halftime.
Missouri regained the lead at 44-43 when Melvin Booker scored on a fast break started with a blocked shot by Chris Heller.
The Mules remained stubborn. Thames' free throws were the seventh lead change after that. There were also three ties in that span.
With 4:16 to play, Heller left the game with five fouls, three points, eight rebounds and four blocks. That made Thames, a 6-foot-7 forward from Jennings, Missouri's big man for the duration.
“I was just trying to play my game and play like I did in high school,” Thames said. “Just play hard, that's all.”
He played the full 40 minutes.
“I thought a couple times that we would give him a little rest, but each time that we were about ready to do that, we'd get a timeout,” Stewart said. “I just kept checking with him. He seemed to be doing all right. He knocked his free throws down at the end, which means that condition-wise he's in pretty good shape.”
Thames made nine of 11 free throws, including six of six in the final minutes, starting with the pair that gave Missouri the lead for good. Missouri was 19 for 28 at the line.
Corey Williams tied Thames for scoring honors with 19 for CMSU. Tyrone Latimer added 18. The two combined for 27 of CMSU's 36 first-half points.
Stewart gave Julian Winfield most of the credit for holding down Williams in the second half. Winfield also had nine rebounds.
“This game is over,” Winfield said. “Maybe it wasn't the win that we wanted or the kind of win that we needed, but it's a win.”
The areas that pleased Stewart were defense, the team's foundation, and handling the late-game situation when the Tigers were able to play with the lead. “We started to play good defense,” Thames said. “That was they key right there.”