MU outplays KU, wins by one
Jan. 23, 1998
The condition of the MU basketball players as they left the court Monday night following the dramatic 74-73 upset over No. 3 Kansas told the story perfectly - bruised, battered and extremely happy.
"It looks like they've been through combat instead of a basketball game," said coach Norm Stewart.
Propelled by Albert White's 23 points,freshman Brian Grawer's heady play at point guard and two Tyron Lee free throws with 11.4 seconds left, Missouri (10-7, 3-3 in Big 12) played its best game of the season - at the absolute best time to do it.
The game began with MU feeling out KU's ever-changing defensive sets.
After falling behind early 34-23, the Tigers clawed back, and as the first-half buzzer sounded, the game was still close with KU leading 41-36.
The battle that raged in the second half was a thing of grotesque beauty. With neither team able to gain a foothold, both teams looked to their stars to try and land the knockout punch.
For MU the gloves went to White, and on a night in which teams find out how much their players are worth, White shined brightest of all. With KU leading 44-38, White scored six of MU's next eight points to give the Tigers their first lead and send the packed Hearnes Center crowd into a frenzy.
White's worthy KU adversary was All-American forward Paul Pierce, who matched White step for step, shot for shot.
Relegated to the bench in the first half because of foul trouble, Pierce stepped up big in the closing minutes to carry the Jayhawks on his shoulder and into the lead. Pierce rained terror on MU from all over the court, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the final 10 minutes.
"I thought Pierce was going to win the game for them near the end," Stewart said. "We couldn't get him stopped."
When a Lee jumper rimmed out with 33 seconds left, KU had the ball and the lead. As the clock on MU's hopes ticked away, the Tigers refused to foul KU guard Ryan Robertson, who steadfastly held onto the ball. When Robertson finally passed the ball to freshman Eric Chenowith, Grawer immediately charged at the 7-foot center and fouled him with 23 seconds left.
Grawer's patience paid off when Chenowith missed both free throws.
MU brought the ball up court, and when Robertson fouled Lee, MU got its chance.
Going scoreless in the first half, Lee dislocated his shoulder and had it popped back in place earlier in the second half. After the game, Lee was in so much pain he was barely able to speak to the media, but standing at the line with 12 seconds left, the senior gathered the necessary strength to sink the free throws.
"I was hurting, but I just had to be mentally and physical tough and make the shots," Lee said.
Down 74-73, KU burned its last timeout with seven seconds left and drew its last play.
Predictably, the ball went to Pierce, who dribbled to the free-throw line only to have the ball stripped by MU's John Woods and into the hands of Jeff Hafer who dribbled up court and away from danger as the buzzer sounded to confirm MU's victory.
"All I saw was white jerseys and Paul Pierce driving," Hafer said. "Then the ball squirted loose in my direction, and I didn't hear anything other than people going crazy."
After a game that epitomized MU's inconsistent season, the questions of road woes and potential loomed large again. How can a team look so bad against last-place Colorado and look so good against powerhouse Kansas?
"It feels like a roller-coaster ride," said center Monte Hardge. "It's a roller-coaster ride I want to get off of. I want to stop going back down. I just want to go up and up."
A fine thought, but what can be higher than Monday night at Hearnes?