Missouri senior center Steve Moore stood at center court with the microphone down on his left side because he couldn’t seem to put it to his mouth. Each time he tried, “STEEEVE!” would roar inside Mizzou Arena from the spectators who had just watched him and the most successful class in Missouri men’s basketball history win for the 67th and final time in Columbia.
“Man,” he said, blinking away tears following his team’s 78-72 win over Iowa State. “I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been here for four years. And they go by so quick, man.”
Moore reflected on his growth over the years, while his four-year teammates, guards Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Jarrett Sutton and other seniors Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey, Andy Rosburg and Andrew Jones stood close by.
“When I first got here, I wasn’t good at all,” Moore said during his speech, incurring laughter from the crowd that stuck around.
Moore has established a pivotal role coming off the bench this season, which has been an eye-popping final campaign for Moore and the senior-anchored No. 7 Tigers.
Denmon said that his four-year teammate’s post-game remarks were over-critical.
“I think we’ve watched Steve grow,” he said. “He’s become a really important piece. We really need Steve to win. I think that’s what he meant by that, that he’s come a long way.”
Denmon, having played in more contests than any other player in the past 106 years of the program’s existence, tied the sixth spot on the school’s all-time scoring list with a late free throw.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work into this arena,” Denmon said in his speech, standing on the floor on which he’s only lost four times.
Denmon, English and Moore are entering the postseason stretch for their last time at Missouri after three years that included one Big 12 Conference Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance for each season, including an Elite Eight appearance in 2009.
“We understand that teams are remembered by championships and that’s what we’ve worked for these past three seasons,” English said before this season began. “This is our last chance to go get it.”
English, who has resurged from last season’s disappointment, heralded Frank Haith “the best coach I’ve had” during his speech and has credited him throughout the season for giving the team the direction it needed.
“It’s the end of a chapter,” Haith said. “These guys have had some special moments over the four years. I’m just proud that I’ve been able to come along for the last year.”
English said he debated what to make of his final moment inside Mizzou Arena before hurling his Nikes high into the fan section on his way to the locker room.
“I didn’t know (whether) to leave my shoes at half court and kiss the floor or toss them to the student section,” he said. “I felt like if I left them at center court a janitor would’ve came and just swept ‘em up.”
He and his senior teammates have made the most of their final year, expecting to be as high as a No. 2 seed come NCAA Tournament time, and nothing can be wasted now.