While we await what should be an entertaining game tonight, how about we do a little reminiscing, with help (as always) from the Trib archive?
February 27, 1999: Missouri 54, Texas 47
As recently as 1995, Mizzou had been a big-time player in college basketball. They had followed up their unprecedented 1993-94 season -- undefeated in Big Eight, 1-seed in NCAAs, Elite Eight -- with an 18-3 start in 1994-95 despite losing four of their top six players to graduation and a fifth (Kelly Thames) to a season-ending knee injury. An 81-79 win over Oklahoma State made them 7-2 in the Big Eight and gave them a week off to prepare for a run at back-to-back conference titles. Then, the bottom fell out for the program. Mizzou limped to a 2-6 finish -- punctuated by a certain NCAA Tournament loss (DON'T CLICK ON THAT LINK) and, from the end of the Oklahoma State game, would go 50-52 over the next three years and one month. Somehow, a Mizzou program that looked to be not only on steady footing, but STEADIER footing than expected (they weren't supposed to do anything in 1994-95, and yet they had turned into a really good team), had completely lost its way. Instead of thriving in his old age, suddenly Norm was looking out of touch with players and losing a ton of solid recruits from the state of Missouri to others schools -- Duke, Kansas, Arkansas, Georgetown, Nebraska, you name it.
Then he went out and landed a stellar recruiting class. Keyon Dooling and Clarence Gilbert were coming up from Florida, while rock-solid big man Pat Schumacher was coming in from St. Louis. Would the old man be able to turn it around?
Sort of. Missouri wasn't great in 1998-99, but in a down year for the Big 12 conference, they held their own. They went 9-2 against a weak non-conference slate (losses: SMS and @Iowa) and made their way through a soap opera-ish Big 12 season. There was the unexpected 12-point home loss to Kansas in Ryan Robertson's final trip to the Hearnes Center, then there was the even more unexpected 8-point win at Allen Field House. There was Keyon's meltdown in Boulder ("Freshman guard Keyon Dooling and Stewart seemed to get involved in a shouting match in the huddle during a timeout with 17:12 left in the second half. Missouri trailed 47-36 at the time. As the timeout was wrapping up, Hafer had to restrain Dooling and guide him onto the court."). There was the infamous Najera-Keyon game ("Najera was also involved in the biggest play of the first half when he clobbered Dooling, who was en route to a dunk. Dooling crashed into the basket standard and went to the floor. The crowd littered the court with giveaway Tiger paws, but officials ruled it a simple two-shot foul."), where I actually felt the deep-down urge to charge the court for the only time ever. There was Clarence's unexpected explosion in Ames. There was Albert White puking on the sideline in Stillwater.
When Mizzou made trip to Austin to finish the regular season, somehow second place in the conference was on the line. Mizzou was playing important basketball in late-February again, for the first time in four years. It was a dogfight, and Mizzou answered every uppercut with one of their own.
Albert White made his case to be considered the Big 12 Player of the Year with his 23-point, eight-rebound performance to lead the Missouri Tigers to a 54-47 victory over No. 22 Texas at the Erwin Center yesterday.
But, more important, Missouri (20-7, 11-5 Big 12) likely sealed its chance of receiving a NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
White, who was bothered by the flu against Oklahoma State last Saturday, once again showed what he can do when fully healthy. White scored 16 points in the first half, including tallying 15 of Missouri’s first 19.
"The team was getting me the ball and I was trying to be aggressive with it," White said. "Once they gave me the ball, I waited to see what the defense was giving me and took it."
Texas native John Woods showed he’s gotten used to coming off the bench with his 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting. The senior guard converted a 3-pointer with 1:53 remaining in the game to put Missouri ahead for good.
Missouri did its best to pack it in on Texas forward Gabe Muoneke (11 points) and 7-footer Chris Mihm (10 points). The Longhorns committed 21 turnovers. Missouri also kept Texas off the free-throw line for most of the game. The Longhorns went just 3 of 9 from there, while Missouri converted 16 of 23.
The loss didn’t affect the Longhorns (18-11, 13-3). Texas had already clinched the regular-season title and the top seed with a win over Baylor on Wednesday.
But the win did wonders for Missouri, which must wait until this afternoon to learn if it will be the second or the fourth seed. Missouri most likely earned its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1995, but that will not be official until a week from today on March 7.
"We’ve been going through bumps all year," said Missouri’s Albert White, who scored a game-high 23 points. "It’s nothing new. We’ve just regrouped and got back to doing the things we did when we were winning."
Missouri’s defense kept Texas out of position all afternoon. The Tigers held UT’s front court of Gabe Muoneke, Kris Clack and Chris Mihm to 28 points yesterday. The trio had been averaging over 44 points coming into the game.
Mihm, who pulled down 16 – but only one on the offensive end — rebounds, seemed tentative and was clearly bothered by Monte Hardge’s 6-foot-11, 335-pound frame.
"I think it’s kind of tough to play him; he’s a big guy," Mihm said. "Every time I tried to move around him, a guard flashed out of nowhere. It was hard enough to try and get around him."
Though his offense was lacking, senior Monte Hardge defended Texas center Chris Mihm well.
Hardge, who scored only one point and grabbed six rebounds, held Mihm to 10 points and kept the sophomore off balance for most of the game.
Hardge also had five steals, a season high, by keeping the ball from Mihm.
"Monte has been real effective defensively," Stewart said. "His offense isn’t always great, but we know we can count on him defensively."
One point, six rebounds, five steals. Oh, Monte, you were great.
We of course didn't know this at the time, but this was Norm Stewart's final win on the Mizzou sidelines. Mizzou laid a giant egg against Kansas State in the conference tournament the next Friday night, falling behind 40-22 in the first half before clawing back a bit. Then, they fell in the last second to New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A strangely eventful season had ended with a whimper, but Mizzou had played important, intense, sometimes big-time basketball again that year, and it culminated with the upset in Austin.
February 4, 2009: Missouri 69, Texas 65
Not sure I have to set this one up for you. Pretty sure you remember it.