Border Showdown ends on the shot that never was
Marcus Denmon and the Tigers ran out of time in an 87-86 overtime loss to Kansas.
Feb. 28, 2012
A total of 644,400 seconds ticked off the Border Showdown clock before the basketball rivalry between Kansas and Missouri finally put its Civil War vitriol to rest Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, Kan.
For the Missouri Tigers and sulking senior guard Marcus Denmon, it will be the second that didn't tick that will stand as the lasting image.
In a textbook game of momentum, when a century of passion wrapped into a finale to be remembered, Denmon was to take the final shot. For coach Frank Haith, it only made sense for his senior dagger-shooter to end it the same way he attempted and delivered such on the prior two possessions with less than a minute to go in overtime.
Denmon, the catalyst of Missouri's comeback victory over Kansas in the first meeting, had a clear objective for the final play: take the ball on a handoff, come off a ball screen and create.
Junior guard Michael Dixon's overhead pass to Denmon came just a tad late. Denmon heaved up a shot that rattled around and fell in the hoop. Its slight tardiness met the raucous cheer of Kansas fans, ecstatic at their team’s 87-86 victory in what is the final foreseeable matchup between the two schools.
And so it ended — the games, the travel, the taunting and the hatred — not on a shot but on a moment fueled by the "what if?"
"I wish he could’ve gotten that ball on the last possession," Haith said. "I think we would’ve seen him go make a play.”
Like his fellow Tiger players and fans, Denmon will forever struggle to erase the memory of his shot that didn't happen. But his responsibility to take the shot, perhaps, signifies something greater.
Not long ago, the Kansas City native shot just 19-of-64 from the field during a five-game stretch in January.
Denmon’s shooting had gone cold, but fellow senior Kim English never once saw his senior teammate down on himself.
“He’s always confident because he prepares every day," English said.
The confidence gave Denmon one solution: keep shooting.
“I wasn’t shooting the ball well, but I understand the work I put in and my ability to shoot the ball, that was something I knew wouldn’t stay that way," Denmon said.
He was right.
During the last seven games, Denmon has been on a tear, averaging 21.1 points per game on 52-of-95 shooting. He has also connected on 29-of-59 three-point attempts over that span.
Those recent offensive numbers are gaudy, but Denmon is quick to point out a different statistic from the team’s last seven games: Missouri's record.
"So like I told my teammates, I’m all about winning, and of course I want to play well, but if I can have two points in a win versus Kansas that’d be totally fine," Denmon said.
It didn't happen Saturday. But on the shots Denmon has been able to get off during big games as of late, most have produced Tiger smiles.
Denmon dumped 29 on Kansas in the first meeting Feb. 4, none bigger than the nine he scored during the final 3:24 of the Tigers’ 74-71 victory.
Denmon was in the zone again Saturday. His 28 points and back-to-back baskets in the final minute of overtime made Haith’s final play call an easy one.
“Marcus epitomizes what everyone says about this team,” Haith said. “They always talk about what we don’t have, with Marcus I unfortunately think it’ll be talked about what he can’t do. But man, he sure does some things to help you win."
Denmon didn't get his chance to win the game Saturday, but it likely won't be his last request to do what he's always done, and shoot the ball.