Thursday, March 1, 2007

In Honor of My Wife’s First Mizzou Basketball Game Last Night...

...I decided to compile my list of Top Ten Most Memorable Mizzou Games That I’ve Attended, in chronological order. I missed a lot of good ones—I was a year too late for the Corey Tate Game, and I wasn’t able to make it to KC for any of the great MU/OU Big XII tourney games or the MU/Iowa Guardians Classic game in ’01. Sucks to be me, I guess. Anyway, here are the top ten...

1. 1/19/98 – Missouri 74, Kansas 73. My first MU/KU game, my first “M-I-Z-F***-K-U chant, my first booing of Ryan Robertson, etc. Paul Pierce was insanely good but foul-plagued, and John Woods stole the ball from him at the end. Good times.

2. 2/4/98 – Missouri 81, Nebraska 76. For no other reason but this:

Nebraska's Cookie Belcher hit the floor after being fouled on a layup attempt with 2:34 left in the game. He held his right wrist and took his 66.7-percent free throw touch to the bench. He was replaced by Eric Piatkowski, who brought in a 64.7 percentage.

But Piatkowski made both shots to give the Huskers their first lead in the second half 64-63. Belcher immediately returned to the game. Stewart was incensed.

Moments later, Missouri's man-mountain center Monte Hardge was fouled. With assistant coach Kim Anderson waving his arms like a movie director, the Tigers' bench convinced Hardge that he had an excruciating pain.

Hardge hesitated a few seconds before the method acting tips from the Strasberg academy took hold. He hobbled to the bench along with his 3-of-11 baggage at the foul line. Enter Kelly Thames, who makes 78 percent of his foul shots. Missouri soon had its lead back.
This was the most fantastically Norm-like thing I ever got to witness. The crowd was incensed when Belcher came back into the game and absolutely erupted when Monte ‘hobbled’ off.

3. 1/22/00 – Missouri 81, Kansas 59. Where Clarence made a 3-pointer with Jeff Boschee literally in his shirt.

4. 2/21/00 – Oklahoma State 84, Missouri 72. Possibly the best crowd ever for a non-KU game. OSU was up 20 with 8 minutes left (seemed like 35), and Mizzou was making a mini-run when, with 2 minutes left, Kareem Rush and Glendon Alexander collided. An inordinately long injury timeout followed, and the fans remaining in the half-full Hearnes Center began a “Let’s Go Tigers” chant that stretched throughout the entire timeout...and out of nowhere there was an unbelievable buzz in the Hearnes Center. Mizzou was down 13 after Alexander made 2 FT’s, but then...Jeff Hafer makes a 3...then Clarence stole the ball...then Rush made a 3...and after a Desmond Mason 3-point play, Gilbert made a 3...then Kareem Rush stole an inbounds pass and canned a 3 to make it a 4-point game with 50 seconds left. Even though Hearnes was half-full, the pop after that 3 went down was about the second-loudest I’ve ever heard (the loudest, of course, being the alley-oop to Paulding during the 2001 Mizzou-Iowa game...of course, there were roughly 35,000 people crammed into the Hearnes at that time, so that’s almost cheating)—all 7,000 people remaining in the building just knew Mizzou was going to win. Of course, then OSU broke the press, got a dunk, made FT’s, and coasted to a 12-point win...but that “Let’s Go Tigers” buzz was something I’ll never forget.

5. 1/13/01 – Missouri 113, Iowa State 109. Four overtimes. Gilbert scores 43 (on 36 shots) despite a 1-for-13 slump at one point. And Grawer almost cans an 80-footer at the buzzer in regulation. The only game in which I remember being completely exhausted when we left. And naturally, we lost three in a row after this one. There was no doubting that that would happen.

6. 3/15/01 – Missouri 70, Georgia 68. We scored the first 15 points of the game and blew that lead; we were up 11 with about 4 minutes to go and blew that lead. For The Beef and I, we were exhausted and facing an 18-hour bus ride back to Missouri the next morning if we somehow managed to lose that game, and when Gilbert canned the jumper to end the misery, The Beef and I shared quite the man hug. We spent the next day drinking beer and watching basketball in the hotel room, then watched Missouri try their damnedest to upend Duke the day after. A fun all-around weekend, but it almost ended with the rare double-blown-lead loss.

7. 3/16/02 – Missouri 83, Ohio State 67. It seemed like we were up by 55 in this game. Missouri would have beaten anybody in the country that day. It made what was probably the dumbest road trip The Beef and I ever made (we decided to drive to Albuquerque in the second half of the Miami-FL game that Thursday, left Friday afternoon, abducted a friend of mine from Stillwater on the way, arrived in Albuquerque just in time for the game, left directly afterward, got back midday on Sunday because I had a test to study for on Monday...I got a B+ on that test, by the way) totally worth it. And it produced the greatest Mizzou basketball photo of all time.

8. 2/26/03 – Missouri 67, Oklahoma 52. Honestly, all I remember about this game was Kevin Young’s dunk on the opening possession, Ricky Clemons having a great game despite shooting with a broken hand, and the Every Sooner Poops Nuggets sign that got on camera in the post-game celebration. But those things alone made it quite memorable.

9. 1/20/04 – Texas 75, Missouri 69. The biggest stomach punch I ever witnessed in person. Joe Walljasper’s write-up was dead on. After Paulding’s vicious dunk (definitely in his Top 3 dunks along with ’02 Ohio State and the crotch dunk in Manhattan in ’04), it felt like Mizzou’s horrendously disappointing season was about to turn around. AJ’s picture-perfect block of Ivey followed, and everyone started to celebrate. And the ball went straight to Brian Boddicker, who Mizzou had tortured all night, who canned the open 3. Mizzou didn’t have a chance in OT.

10. 2/24/04 – Missouri 93, Oklahoma State 92. Mizzou’s last gasp. They were putting together a winning streak and needed to win their last four games of the season (OSU, @ KSU, @ Tech, KU) to have a chance at the tourney. It was Paulding and AJ versus John Lucas and Tony Allen—the four of them combined for 114 points. Mizzou led by 13 late in the first half, but you knew OSU would make a charge, and they did...well, it wasn’t a charge so much as a slow bleed. The lead was still 9 with 5:00 left when OSU finally made its move, tying it on an Allen jumper with 1:30 left. Then it was clutch versus clutch. AJ made two clutch FT’s, then Ivan Macfarlin made a clutch jumper to send it to OT. Late in the first OT, Thomas Gardner made a ridiculous bank-shot 3 to send it to a second OT. Late in the second OT, a Tony Allen jumper gave OSU a 1-point lead until two clutch Paulding free throws changed that. So Macfarlin made another clutch jumper, and AJ, not the best FT-shooter in the world, knocked down two with 30 seconds left, and after a missed Lucas 3 at the buzzer, Mizzou had pulled it out. And they’d turned their season around! They won the rest of the games and made the NCAA’s in dramatic fashion!

Actually, they crumbled against Tech, lost at the buzzer to KU (again!) in the Hearnes Center’s final game, got wiped off the court by KU at the Big XII tourney, and quietly bowed out to Michigan in the NIT to end one of the most disappointing seasons I can remember in any sport. But hey, that OSU game was great, huh?