A Thriller in Kansas City
While the Missouri Tigers basketball team won their first five games, they hadn't faced a premier opponent, and had fans wondering if their number eight ranking was legitimate. That would be tested when they'd face the Georgetown Hoyas, coming in as the number 14 seed (rankings depend on which poll you view).
The Tigers found themselves down as many as 18 points in the first half, but stormed back with balanced scoring and solid defense behind a raucous crowd at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Despite a Georgetown three-pointer that counted even though it came after the shot clock buzzer, Mizzou cut the deficit to just seven points at halftime. The Tigers came out of the gates firing and found themselves with a lead late in the game. But, two Laurence Bowers missed free throws, another miss by Michael Dixon and two missed foul calls by the refs with just five seconds to play gave Georgetown a chance to tie down three points. While the Tigers' Dixon was bumped as he went out of bounds, he saved the ball but threw it to a Hoyas player, who kicked it out to Chris Wright, who nailed a game tying three to send this thriller into overtime.
Wright and talented front court teammate Austin Freeman, combined for 52 points in 85 minutes, and three three-pointers in OT by Jason Clark, who added 26 points of his own, were the dagger, sending the Hoyas to 7-0 and Mizzou to 5-1 with a 111-102 win. The Tigers had five players in double figures, including sensational shooting by Marcus Denmon, who had 27 points, and hard-nosed inside play from Ricardo Ratliffe, who had 22 points. The Hoyas made 15 three balls compared to the Tigers seven, and the Hoyas made all 18 free throws while the Tigers were 23 of 31 from the foul line.
None were more crucially missed than three of the last four taken by the Tigers in regulation, who seemingly saw their lead squandered to a solid Hoyas bunch that never gave up. While the Tigers didn't win, they have a lot of good things to take out of this showdown. They didn't give up despite trailing double digits early and they came all the way back against a Big East powerhouse. This is an extremely well coached team, and despite losing some key players to graduation, their younger players are now more experienced and the Tigers have added some scoring.
Ricardo Ratliffe, the number one Junior College recruit nationally, provides inside scoring and a defensive presence, and Kim English, who played with NBA stars Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony over the Summer, has taken a leadership role and looks to be the go to player in the clutch that the Tigers need to step up. Meanwhile, Texas High School Player of the Year Tony Mitchell still is ineligible because of grades but hopefully will be back by the spring. Nevertheless, Mizzou has Phil Pressey, from the Episcopal School of Dallas, and his brother Matt, who had nine points against the Hoyas. With all these talents, the Tigers should remain ranked throughout the season and be a threat once again in the NCAA Tournament.