In this four-part series leading up to Missouri's debut at the Big 12 Championship on Thursday, rptgwb will take a look at some of the smaller moments that played a huge role in shaping Missouri's run through the Big 12. Today, this installment takes a look at an unheralded play that helped Missouri prevent a major letdown in Stillwater, Okla.
The Jump Ball
The Date: Jan. 21, 2009
The Game: Mizzou vs. Oklahoma State
The Place: Gallagher-Iba Arena
The Result: 97-95 W
The Moment: "(0:27) Byron Eaton turnover, Leo Lyons steal."
Why it mattered: Before Missouri had developed its reputation as a second-half team, there was first the team that had embarrassed itself in Lincoln, Neb. and creamed bad Colorado and Iowa State teams at home. This certainly wasn't a 2-1 record of which to be proud.
In the opening minutes in Stillwater, Mizzou blitzed the Pokes early, leading by as many as sixteen points in the first half. Everything was going right until the middle of the second half, when everything started to go horribly, horribly wrong.
A 20-point lead with 12:32 to play disappeared to a five-point lead in a span of 10 minutes. All of the sudden, Oklahoma State was looking legit to the Gallagher-Iba Arena fans that hadn't elected to leave in the midst of the blowout.
After the infamous six-point swing on Marcus Denmon's intentional foul, the lead was down to three. Two Byron Eaton free throws with 0:47 to play and a subsequent Zaire Taylor turnover on the inbound led to a crazy sequence of events that almost sent Eaton to the line for the lead, best described by The Trib's Steve Walentik:
He [Eaton] missed once then missed a tip-in, but the 5-foot-11 guard somehow came up with the ball in a scramble under the basket and tried to let go of a third shot.
When the whistle blew, Eaton thought he was headed to the foul line once again and swung his arm in celebration. Only the official along the baseline credited Lyons with forcing a jump ball, turning it over to Missouri.
From there, J.T. Tiller went 1/2 from the line, leading to a DeMarre Carroll block and misses by Terrel Harris and Byron Eaton to give Missouri the win.
You can't underestimate the importance of the win in the grand scheme of Missouri's conference momentum. Yes, they escaped and "stole one," according to Mike Anderson. OSU's late surge made the victory much more impressive as the year dragged on, and proved that Missouri was capable of winning in a tough environment, even if it meant hanging on by a thread. If Mark Whitehead, Rick Hartzell and Brad Ferrie had decided Lyons fouled Eaton rather than forcing the tie-up, Missouri could have very well been sitting at .500 through four Big 12 games.