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The rush to the start: MU fans take in unique experience

Feb. 7, 2012

Perfect "GameDay"

Slideshow: Perfect "GameDay"

Clad in gold and ready with tents, signs and voice, Missouri students took in the school's first ever host of ESPN's "College GameDay" for basketball before watching their No. 4 Tigers come back from eight down to win the Border Showdown over No. 8 Kansas, 74-71.

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First, there were tents, damp and withered from two nights of rain and thunder. Then there was the line, winding round and round the sidewalks and lawn staging Mizzou Arena.

None of it mattered when the gold rush came.

It was 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a moment between ESPN's "College GameDay" broadcast and what was set to be the final Border Showdown meeting between No. 4 Missouri and No. 8 Kansas at Mizzou Arena.

“This is the biggest game we’ve done probably in the last two or three years,” ESPN analyst Hubert Davis said of the broadcast. “Both of these teams have a chance to go to a Final Four and win a national championship.”

When the door opened to the arena at 6:30 p.m. as scheduled, the line inched forward for about a minute. But when a second door flew open to the right of the partitioned entrance, the gold rush threw its convictions to the wind and stampeded to the show.

Flying elbows, fearless shoving and a sandwiched mob characterized Tiger nation's plight to reach the sought-after entrance. Even the partition gates made their way through the crowd’s arms as anything in the way of an hour and a half's early entrance was thrown to the wayside.

The scene held a stigma of faint comparison to the last time the gold rush hit MU, the only other time in which “College GameDay” came to town. Missouri had just upset No. 1 Oklahoma in football the night of Oct. 24, 2010. With goalposts and all, the gold rush made its mark.

This rush didn't come after the game. It didn't wait until victory sealed the deal or until the magic crafted reality.

This rush precluded the moment, like the tents and the lines and the signs and the wait. This rush didn't need a moment; the moment needed the rush.

“We don’t win this game without their energy," coach Frank Haith said after the game.

That moment centered on senior forward Marcus Denmon, who decided one last Columbia dance with the Jayhawks was the right time to put on a show. His nine consecutive points brought Missouri from an eight-point deficit to victory in a game his 29-point showing refused to let die.

It was Denmon and other players who urged fans not to rush after the game. The fans listened.

"We know Kansas is a great team, but we're at home and we expect to win," Denmon said on ESPN during the victory celebration.

As students departed, many retrieved the ticket that justified the rush. It was a piece of no material value but plenty of sentimental valor. It was the ticket they paid for, camped out to pick up and then camped out and stampeded to use.

On the front was a familiar face: Marcus Denmon, roaring back at them — just as he did when they needed him most and just as he did when the gold rush didn't come.

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