M-I-Z... E-R-Y: Eduardo Najera vs Tyus Edney

Evil versus the recurring nightmare. Only one will win today, but nobody really wins.

 

Eduardo Najera

10 Mar 2000: Jeff Hafer #24 of the Missouri Tigers looks to rebound the ball as he blocks Eduardo Najera #21 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the Big 12 Tournament at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. The Sooners defeated the Tigers 84-80. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

Eduardo Najera was so hate-able that it's a wonder he didn't play for Kansas. He fit the "your fans love him, opposing fans hate him" categorization, only he went nuclear with it. And, of course, no single moment encapsulated his relationship with Missouri fans more than the one that came in the first half of a game at Hearnes on February 15, 1999.

With 8:24 left in the first half, Dooling was on his way to electrifying the Hearnes Center crowd with one of his patented high-flying jams on a Missouri fastbreak. But instead of finishing off the play with a two-handed dunk, Najera hit Dooling from behind and sent him and the freshman careening into the basket standard.

Dooling hit his head on the padding at the bottom of the goal, and Najera slammed into the other side. Dooling was motionless for a few moments as a hushed crowd wondered if their star was seriously hurt. But Dooling shook off the cobwebs and even did a few push-ups before he got to his feet. Najera, who seemed to take the worst of the collision, also got up slowly.

The officials called Najera for a foul, but not an intentional foul like most of the 13,330 faithful had hoped. Until then, Dooling had ripped off seven points in helping MU take a 20-13 lead. But after the foul, Dooling only scored two points, and those were on free throws with 5:51 remaining in the first half.

The foul seemed to take the wind out of Dooling’s sails. He never attacked the basket the rest of the game.

When asked if he felt the foul was intentional, MU coach Norm Stewart said: "Yes. Completely."

Should Najera have been thrown out of the game?

"I don’t know, it’s whatever they want to call," Stewart said. "They didn’t rule it that way. They ruled in another way."

What about Najera’s overall play?

"I’m not going to compliment him," Stewart said.

I had actually forgotten that the play was NOT ruled an intentional foul. It was the most intentional foul in the history of intentional fouls. Now I'm mad all over again. And now I'm looking at the picture of him above and realizing that there's a 100% chance he was 0.3 seconds away from planting an elbow into Hafer's back and getting away with it. Now I'm REALLY mad. Screw him. Who's idea was this contest, anyway?

UCLA 75, Mizzou 74

On February 11, 1995, Mizzou was 18-3, having overcome both the loss of approximately 17 seniors from the immortal 1994 squad and the loss of Kelly Thames to knee injury. And then they completely ran out of steam. They lost four of five to end the regular season and got blown out by Iowa State in the first round of the Big 8 Tournament. They fell from potential Top 3 seed to the eighth seed in the West region, facing a brutal draw. First, they had to get past Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers; if they won, their reward was No. 1 seed UCLA.

With their late swoon, Mizzou was expected to quickly bow out to Indiana in Boise, and they played like it. The Hoosiers went up 14-3, but the Tigers finally found the gear they had left behind a month earlier. They had cut the deficit to five by halftime, went on a 12-2 run to start the second half, and held off the Hoosiers, 65-60.

The hot streak continued when they took a 42-34 lead into halftime against the top-ranked Bruins. An unstructured offense found structure, an undisciplined defense found discipline. UCLA came charging back, but the Tigers matched them, shot for shot. With under 30 seconds remaining, UCLA led by one, but freshman point guard Kendrick Moore calmly worked the shot clock down, penetrated to the free throw line, drew a double-team, and found Julian Winfield for short jumper and a one-point lead. It was a brilliant play, and it could have gone down as one of the biggest in Mizzou history. Only there were 4.8 seconds remaining. I'm not going to bother describing what happened next. You already know.

Joe Walljasper put it best:

BOISE, Idaho -- Years from now, a generation of Missouri fans unable to find their car keys will remember where they were when Tyus Edney broke their hearts.

In 4.8 seconds, Edney turned a 74-73 Tiger upset into a 75-74 UCLA victory with his game-winning shot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament West Regional at the Boise State Pavilion.

"That five seconds, it went pretty slow," MU reserve Scott Combs said. "When it went off the backboard, it went even slower. It seemed like it should roll off the rim."

But it didn't.

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