As smoke from a pre-game pyrotechnic show lingered throughout Mizzou Arena, two long-time foes with hatred dating back to the Civil War went to battle on the court. It was the 266th meeting between Missouri and Kansas and just the third time with both teams ranked in the top 10 in the history of the rivalry.
When it was all said and done, No. 4 Missouri (21-2, 8-2 Big 12 Conference) rallied from an eight-point deficit to claim a 74-71 victory over No. 8 Kansas (18-5, 8-2 Big 12 Conference).
The rest is history.
It all came down to the game’s waning moments, unfolding under the spotlight of ESPN’s “College Gameday” primetime telecast, in front of 15,061 golden-clad fans at Mizzou Arena.
The ears of those fortunate enough to attend continued ringing long after Elijah Johnson’s last-second prayer went unanswered for Kansas.
“You can’t just sit here and say it’s an ordinary game, because it’s not,” Dixon said following the game.
Even for Border Showdown standards, Saturday night’s tussle was extraordinary.
The pair of heavyweights went blow for blow, until a final Missouri haymaker in the form of an 11-0 run to end the game rendered Kansas down for the count.
It’s not often games as hyped as Saturday night’s live up to their immense billing. Saturday night’s spectacle transcended expectations.
There were 15 lead changes. Seven ties. And it all hung in the balance as Johnson’s final shot went awry.
The buzz around the arena was spirited, as students waved their golden pom-poms feverishly through the air in anticipation of the game. The pre-game fireworks accompanying player introductions further amplified the excitement.
During the game, the crowd never once left its feet. Tiger faithfuls were ear-splittingly loud.
“The crowd was as loud as I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been to some loud places.” Haith said after the game.
And for as frenzied as the atmosphere was, it was an equally respectful one.
"I loved the atmosphere," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "So much has been made of the hatred and all that stuff. I thought tonight, and this is hard for me to say to Mizzou people, but I thought tonight that was as good and classy of an atmosphere as there is."
After the final buzzer had sounded, as gold and white strands of confetti descended onto the court and Missouri fans everywhere rejoiced, senior forward Kim English made his way over to the student section.
Surely, the fans would storm the court. But there was English, a senior who has experienced everything but a Final Four at MU, frantically waving his arms, pleading with his fellow students to remain in the stands.
“We don’t go into games expecting to lose,” English said. “I know how much this rivalry means to our fans and we want to beat them real badly, but this game to us was just another game we needed to win to continue our quest to win the Big 12.”
Such is the enthralling new reality for Missouri Tigers basketball. The Tigers expect to win every time they take the court. Their success in doing so has the Tigers venturing into territory rarely visited throughout program history.
But Saturday night, all that mattered was what had just transpired inside Mizzou Arena.
Saturday night might have marked the final installment of the Border Showdown inside Missouri state lines. Unlike the “Bleeding Kansas” affair, there were no guns, no pillaged towns and the likes of William Quantrill’s bushwhackers and John Brown’s Jayhawkers were nowhere to be found.
Rather, this final battle played out on Norm Stewart Court, between Marcus Denmon and Thomas Robinson, among others. And this time, as opposed to the result from fighting 153 years prior, Missouri prevailed.