The Maneater

Geist’s shot ‘into the ocean’ leads Missouri to unforgettable win

Senior Jordan Geist, often criticized for his late-game management, made a contested 3 at the buzzer to force overtime against Central Florida.

Jordan Geist heaves up a three-point shot in the final second of regulation to tie the game at 57 and send UCF and the Tigers into overtime. Geist finished the game with 18 points.

Jordan Geist is still haunted by the ones that didn’t go in.

The Missouri point guard couldn’t seem to escape game-deciding possessions during his junior season, and when the Tigers couldn’t score, he was the offense’s conductor who took the heat. The frequent criticism, which came mostly from social media, got Geist inside his own head just as much as the moments themselves. Now a senior, he can name the missed opportunities on a dime.

“Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas,” he said, trailing off.

To learn how to handle the ones that didn’t go in and maintain the confidence to keep taking big shots, Geist has adopted a visualization tactic that he works on with coaches.

“I’m shooting it into an ocean,” Geist said. “That’s my big thing. When you're shooting into an ocean, you’re going to make it.”

With another game on the line Sunday afternoon, Geist had to shoot one over a tsunami to get it into the ocean. The 3-pointer made impact with a similar splash, tying Central Florida at the buzzer and saving MU from a crushing defeat. Missouri (4-3) went on to win 64-62 in overtime, a desperately needed triumph against a quality opponent in UCF (6-2).

“Being able to just kind of block things out and having a good support system is important,” Geist said. “I’ve learned that I’m not playing for anyone. Im playing for an audience of one.”

Geist led Missouri with 18 points, five rebounds and – the stat he said was most important – zero turnovers. MU only gave the ball away 10 times as a team, a notable decline after ugly performances with 25 and 15 against Iowa State and Temple, respectively.

Instead this time, poor shooting was the plague that was almost too much to overcome. The Tigers found a way to win despite a going more than seven minutes in the first half without scoring, and more than nine without making a field goal. How did they do it?

“It’s Sunday,” coach Cuonzo Martin said, “so you know I did a lot of praying.”

Without Geist’s prayer at the end of regulation, Missouri’s record would be under .500 for the first time in two seasons under Martin. The Tigers emerged from their final timeout with a recent gaffe still on their minds, trailing 57-54 with 7.3 seconds left and with the ball at midcourt.

Moments earlier, they had trailed by 1 with a similar inbound coming. But no one could get open for Javon Pickett, and the Tigers seemed to forget they still had a timeout left as the freshman was whistled for five seconds and turnover. UCF made both ensuing foul shots.

This time on the inbound, Geist received the entry pass and stood at the top of the key for almost the entirety of the last seven seconds, a period that felt like a lot more to MU fans. Geist said the play was designed to get sophomore Mark Smith open for a shot – Geist calls Smith his “ocean man” – but Smith got caught in traffic on the left wing and couldn’t get open.

“[Geist] did a great job recognizing the breakdown,” Martin said. “Whatever play we ran, we wanted to try to keep the ball in his hands anyway.”

Up 3, UCF had a foul to give but didn’t offer. Martin said he didn’t even mention the possibility of being fouled to his players during the timeout. He didn’t want them “playing too passively.”

“We talked about fouling if the opportunity presented itself,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We didn’t think the opportunity was there.”

Geist improvised with two seconds left and dribbled to his left while attracting a second defender. Then he shot faked and turned back to his right, desperate for space. Even with four outstretched arms in his face, he had just enough to get a shot up while awkwardly fading sideways.

“I just wanted to make sure I’d give it a chance to get there,” Geist said. “Right after I shot it I knew it was going in, so I just stood there.”

That he did, expressionless from his spotlight near the center of Mizzou Arena while every other face in the building lit up, while every other present jaw dropped. The reaction exuded confidence in front of a fan base that has developed very little in Missouri’s late-game antics.

“I shoot into an ocean,” Geist said, “so I've got to have confidence that it’s gonna go into that ocean.”

UCF missed several late chances to tie while going the last 3:32 of overtime without scoring, but after Pickett missed the front end of a one-and-one in the final seconds, the Knights got one last heave up from inside midcourt. It bounced from backboard to rim and out, a near miss that drew one more collective gasp before an unforgettable Missouri win was finally clinched.

The Tigers had fallen behind early in overtime but got a boost from Geist on another stepback 3, this time to give them a 62-59 lead. UCF answered with a 3 to tie, but sophomore Jeremiah Tilmon scored the last bucket of the game with 1:30 left on a tricky post move that put UCF’s Tacko Fall on the spin cycle.

Fall was Missouri’s towering point of offensive emphasis coming into the game. UCF’s 7-foot-6 giant had four of his six blocks in the first 12 minutes to keep the Tigers from establishing any sort of inside presence.

“[Fall] alters so many shots; he’s hard to get shots off against,” Martin said. “I thought we did a great job against him.”

Missouri instead relied heavily on outside shooting, starting the game on a 9-2 run with a trio of 3s. But UCF’s ever-changing defense became tricky for the Tigers. It played a 2-3 zone when Fall was on the floor and a man defense when he wasn’t. The Tigers struggled against both, falling into a drought that would sink most teams.

“I thought we were passive in flashing to the middle of the zone more than anything,” Martin said.

But MU only trailed 27-21 at halftime after missing 14 straight shot attempts and going 7:31 without scoring. A tip-in from Mitchell Smith at the first-half buzzer marked their first field goal since the 9:04 mark.

Geist and Pickett paced MU to a 41-34 second-half lead with 3s before it fell back into a drought and gave up 10 straight. Trailing 55-52, Geist precursored his own late heroics by snatching an inbound and immediately laying it in to pull Missouri within 1. No one scored until UCF’s free throws a minute later to set up Geist’s shot into the ocean.

Geist saw it as a culmination of sorts, a reward for maintaining his desire to take the last shot through building frustration from the ones that didn’t go in.

“He embraces those challenges and he can deal with whatever goes with it,” Martin said, “if it goes in or if it doesn’t go in.”

Sunday, Dec. 2 2018 will be remembered as the one that went in. Geist just won’t watch the replay too many times.

“I’ve made like 1-of-4, 1-of-5 last-second shots, so you’ve gotta be humble with it,” Geist said. “But it feels good to finally get one to fall.”

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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