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Mizzou in the '00s: Best Moments of the Decade, #10

Having taken a look at all the moments that came close to the top ten moments of the decade, it's now time to look at the cream of the crop.  No ten moments (or series of moments) filled Mizzou fans with more excitement and pride than these.  The decade of the 2000s clearly had plenty of moments that caused dismay and a little bit of embarrassment, but there were plenty of great moments to go around.

Oh, and another slight change of plans: these moments were too much fun to write about, so we're giving each one of them their own moment in the sun.  We'll release these one at a time, starting with #10.

10. Basketball: Mizzou 78, Iowa 77 (2001)

The 2009 Elite Eight run was two months of surprises.  Nobody expected it, and it was one exhilarating moment after another.  The 2002 run, on the other hand, started and ended wonderfully, with everything almost falling apart in the middle.  It's hard to quantify just how exciting the first nine games of the season were.  A 3-game losing streak to Iowa, Illinois and DePaul would muffle the excitement, but before that, it looked like everything had come together perfectly.  No. 5 Mizzou had taken out a tough Alabama team in the semifinals of the Guardians Classic despite an elbow to Kareem Rush's face that knocked him out of the game.  The fourth game of the season was a finals matchup versus No. 9 Iowa.

Things just didn't go Mizzou's way for 38 minutes.  Rush played (with a mask), but not very well, scoring just 11 points on 15 shots.  Mizzou made just 6 of 18 first-half 3-pointers (yes, they shot 18 3's in the first 20 minutes ... welcome to the Gilbert/Rush era).  With 2:11 left, Iowa led 73-63.  But then Wesley Stokes made some free throws, and Clarence Gilbert got a couple of fast break buckets.  Rush made a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 77-74, and freshman Duane John, in his finest (and almost only) moment, forced a jump ball.  With 24 seconds left, Rickey Paulding knocked down a 3-pointer of his own, and somehow the game was tied.  After Iowa missed a shot on the other end, John tipped the rebound to Gilbert, who raced down court and was fouled on a long jumper with 0.8 seconds left.  Iowa called a timeout to ice him, then called another.  It worked -- he missed the first free throw.  Iowa called another timeout (seriously, how did they have three timeouts left?), but Gilbert was not about to miss both free throws.  He calmly sank the second one, Paulding broke up a desperation heave, and suddenly Mizzou was starting to look like a team of destiny.

Long-term, this game didn't mean as much as it felt it did at the time.  Mizzou would take care of David West and Xavier three days later in Indianapolis, and after a couple of cupcake wins, Wesley Stokes would knock down a runner at the buzzer to beat SLU in St. Louis.  Mizzou was 9-0 and ranked second in the country before Iowa got its revenge in front of at least 16,000 at an oversold Hearnes Center (the infamous Fire Code game) and Mizzou got stuck in a slump.  But for a few weeks in November and December, Mizzou put together one of the most fun and exciting winning streaks in their history, and just as the 2004 loss to Texas was one of the worst moments because of the complete sucker punch to the gut more than the impact to the season itself, this moment was, in a vacuum, simply one of the best moments of the decade, nothing more and nothing less.