Monday, March 12, 2007

1993-94 Redux: Missouri 73, Oklahoma State 68

(Living in Oklahoma, I had to watch the replay of Big Country’s half-court buzzer beater about, I dunno, 1000 times during Big Country’s stay in Stillwater. I think it was in the montage that opened the news, actually. So needless to say, this was a very satisfying win.)

January 22, 1994

of the Tribune's staff

The Missouri Tigers have far more reason to look ahead than to remember the past when they return to Gallagher-Iba Arena today.

A game in hand that ended up lost here last season was one of the low points in an up-and-down year for Missouri. At hand is the chance to play for sole possession of first place in the Big Eight. Upsets earlier this week knocked Kansas and Nebraska from unbeaten status in the conference. Missouri is in first place at 3-0. Today's winner will be the only undefeated team in Big Eight play.

“We really want to win the Big Eight Conference, especially the seniors,” guard Melvin Booker said. “We really want to win. We've been here for three years and never won.

“We're going to try to win all the games so it won't even be a tossup.”

Bryant “Big Country” Reeves tossed up a 40-foot, banked-in three last year to wipe out a three-point Missouri lead with three seconds to play and send the game into overtime. It was the fifth loss in what became a seven-game losing streak.

Booker said he remembers Reeves' basket like no other play in his college career. “I was under the basket when the shot fell through,” he said. “That's one of a kind.”

Three-pointers, but not by Reeves, are playing a stepped-up role in the offense. It's mainly Reeves, who's averaging 20.5 points per game, inside and guards Brooks Thompson and Randy Rutherford outside. Most of Thompson's field goal attempts are threes, as are almost half of Rutherford's.

“With Thompson and Rutherford out there shooting the threes, it's hard to go in there and help,” Booker said. “The key is probably get the guards out of the game, and then go after Big Country.”

In Eddie Sutton's previous three years as OSU coach, the home team has won each game. Make that the home state team. The Tigers have beaten the Cowboys twice in Big Eight Tournament play the last three years, a 1991 semifinal and in last year's first round, at Kansas City.

Center Chris Heller was instrumental in that game and went on to win the tournament's Most Valuable Player award as the Tigers took home their league-leading sixth tournament title. Little has been heard from Heller this season, but OSU seemed to bring out the best in him before.

“He's still a runner, a defensive player, a rebounder,” MU coach Norm Stewart said. “If he does that, he can play.

“A big guy changes a game if he just puts his influence in it.”

“Chris is going to play a key,” Booker said. “We need to rotate some bodies in on Big Country. Chris, he's got the wing span. He can jump, block shots and do all the things defensively that we would need.”

Reeves is peaking again after hitting a valley when the Cowboys went to Hawaii in December. He had 33 points Wednesday in OSU's 68-63 victory at Southwest Missouri State.

The rest of the Cowboys were a combined 10 for 36 from the field.

Starting forward Fred Burley is averaging 12.2 points per game. No other Cowboy is averaging five.

“We need to have a little better point production from the people that are coming off the wood,” Sutton said. “We're just not doing as well as I though we would.”

All the guns were blazing when the Cowboys opened their conference schedule at Oklahoma.

“The game against Oklahoma was really, really a clinic,” Stewart said.

The Cowboys (13-4, 2-0) also won at Iowa State. They're playing their firstconference home game.

Stewart said the Tigers can't afford any lapses at Gallagher-Iba Arena. “Keeping that concentration level is difficult, and we've not had that,” he said. “We've got to have that for more minutes than we've had if we expect to win at Oklahoma State or someplace like that.”

The place leaves a distinct impression. “I remember last year Lamont” Frazier “was shooting a free throw late in the game,” Booker said. “Their fans were yelling. I was like at the half line. I just could see the court shaking. I couldn't even hear anything, just yelling.”

Booker and the Tigers will try to keep a clear head whatever happens today. They play again Monday night at third-place Nebraska.

“We started off 3-0 last year,” Booker said. “Anything can turn. You've just got to stay focused.

“This is a key, key victory for us if we do get it. So we're really concentrating hard.”
January 23, 1994.

Here's a reproduction that Missouri will treasure every bit as much as an original.

"It was a duplicate of last year in a lot of ways," Missouri coach Norm Stewart said after yesterday's game at Oklahoma State. For Missouri, this was a corrected copy. The Tigers came from 15 points down in the second half to win 73-68 and stay in first place in the Big Eight with a spotless 4-0 record.

Where last year the Tigers ushered Bryant "Big Country" Reeves into legend status with a half-court three-point basket that sent the game into overtime where OSU won, the Tigers' comeback stuck this time.

The Tigers, who fell behind by 15 before cutting the halftime deficit to 37-27, were within five in the first minute and a half of the second half. The Cowboys (13-5, 2-1) built the lead back to 51-36 with 15:11 left. The Tigers (13-2, 4-0) outscored them 37-14 before Brooks Thompson made a three, the last basket of the game with 13 seconds left. Thompson led all scorers with 26 points. He made six of 15 three-point tries and missed both his two-point shots.

Jevon Crudup's short jumper with 10:26 to play started Missouri on a 15-0 run that gave it the lead for good.

Julian Winfield, Paul O'Liney, Mark Atkins and Melvin Booker joined in.

Booker scored after an O'Liney steal to tie it at 57 with 7:05 left.

Crudup's three-point play with a foul on Reeves gave Missouri a 60-57 lead with 5:03 to go.

The Tigers recovered from an abysmal shooting first half, which has become part of their pattern at Gallagher-lba Arena. Last season, the Tigers trailed 31-19 at halftime.

This year, they shot a ragged 25 percent--eight for 32--in the first half.

"They took us out of our offense, just completely took us out of it," Stewart said.

At least they were getting their shots. Missouri committed only seven turnovers during the game. The previous low was 11 Jan. 2 against Washington at the Hearnes Center. An assist total of 19 made for the Tigers' best assist-turnover ratio of the season.

Missouri ended up outshooting OSU for the game 40 percent to 38.

"We finally found a way to win the son of a gun," Stewart said. "Shot well the second half, and that allowed our defense, I think, to pick it up a little, too."

It was Missouri's first victory here since Eddie Sutton, now in his fourth year, returned as coach.

Sutton's record in that time at Gallagher-lba is 46-4. OSU lost for the first time this season when it had a halftime lead.

"Very disappointing loss because in Gallagher-lba we're a better basketball team," Sutton said. "You've got to give them credit.

"Once they sensed a chance to win, I thought they really executed well."

The six fourth-year Tigers have now won every place in the Big Eight except Kansas.

"It's my first win here," Booker said. "It's great."

Booker led Missouri in scoring for the fifth consecutive game. The first time he tied Crudup with 14 points against Kansas State. The last four games, he's scored 20 or more points, 22 yesterday.

OSU closed to within two points three times after Crudup put Missouri on top, but Mark Atkins' three pointer with 2:05 left gave the Tigers a cushion.

"In the second half, they wanted it more than we did," Thompson said. "They were getting second and third opportunities that obviously helped them."

On that, the Cowboys and Tigers, who were often combative yesterday, could agree.

"Our second-half effort from 15 minutes down was tremendous," Stewart said. "That's the difference.”