When asked what went wrong for his team in the waning moments of the No. 4 Missouri's 74-71 victory over No. 8 Kansas in the Border Showdown on Saturday at Mizzou Arena, Jayhawks coach Bill Self was quick to respond.
“Everything,” the coach said.
With 3:24 left in the game, which played host to ESPN's "College GameDay" on Saturday, No. 8 Kansas (18-5, 8-2 Big 12 Conference) led 71-63. The game was seemingly at hand for the Jayhawks, as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor high-stepped away from the hoop after a slam-dunk.
The game was far from over.
Four turnovers and two missed free throws later, Missouri (21-2, 8-2 Big 12 Conference) had stormed all the way back, forcing four turnovers and finishing the final 3:24 on an 11-0 run to win the game.
One particular moment in the huddle during a late stoppage in play resonated within senior guard Marcus Denmon.
“The most important part I remember hearing was (senior guard) Kimmie (English) saying, ‘We’re going to win this game,'” Denmon said. “That was something that affected me because I understood how much it meant to him to say that.”
Denmon clearly believed.
“They had a guy who was unbelievable tonight,” Self said.
Denmon was that guy. The senior guard led all scorers with 29 points, nine of which came in the game’s final 3:24.
“He made two 3’s with his body turned sideways, those are big-time shots,” Self said.
Denmon put the Tigers on his back offensively, but, with the game in the balance, it was senior forward Steve Moore who kept Missouri’s aspirations of a comeback alive.
With 1:43 left on the clock and the Tigers down five, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson was called for a charge. It was Moore, in the game as a defensive replacement for Ricardo Ratliffe, who drew the charge.
Robinson, a national player of the year candidate, had dominated the second half, scoring 19 points and hauling in six rebounds in the game’s second frame alone.
“He was feeling it,” English said of the sequence. “(Steve) slid his feet and Thomas likes to spin back at the end of his drive and Steve anticipated that.”
Self noticed Moore's effort.
“I think Steve Moore is a little underrated,” Self said. “I think he does a little more for this team than the credit he gets from the stat sheet.”
The Tigers made the most of the opportunity at hand, as Denmon sank back-to-back three’s to give Missouri a one-point lead.
With 42 seconds left and Missouri up one, Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor was at the free-throw stripe, shooting two. With a frenzied Missouri student section as his backdrop, he would miss both shots, evoking memories of former Jayhawk Christian Moody missing a pair of free throws with the 2006 Border Showdown game on the line at Mizzou Arena.
However, Phil Pressey failed to connect on the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the door open for Kansas. Taylor turned the ball over on the Jayhawks’ ensuing possession, and Mike Dixon drained both of his free throws to put the Tigers up three.
Elijah Johnson heaved up an off-balance prayer from the top of the circle as time expired, but the shot drew nothing but the side of the backboard.
The win was the 150th of coach Frank Haith’s career. Saturday night was Haith’s indoctrination into the Missouri-Kansas rivalry.
“I’m learning a lot about this rivalry,” Haith said.
The win not only gave Tiger fans bragging rights over the hated Jayhawks for the time being. It also paced the Tigers atop the Big 12 standings along with the Jayhawks.
Nerves were high throughout the night, as Saturday’s game, which marked the final time for the foreseeable future that Kansas would visit Mizzou Arena, was played before an absolutely electric crowd.
English threw up at halftime.
“I don’t know who catered the pregame meal,” a smiling English joked after the game. “I actually felt better, but I had to hold it in, that would have been embarrassing.”
Haith raved about the atmosphere after the game, saying he had never been in a louder building.
“This crowd was incredible,” Haith said. “We don’t win this game without their energy.”