For one more day, for one more moment, Kim Anderson and the Missouri Tigers live on.
We know what the end will be. Next season Missouri will have a new basketball coach, but for one more night, this is Kim Anderson’s team, and his team showed the remarkable fight they’ve shown all season long, despite the longest odds.
Given just a 28% chance to win according to the KenPom numbers, Kevin Puryear had an incredible performance, Cullen VanLeer had the best shooting night of his career, and Frankie Hughes found the bottom of the net on two of the biggest three’s of the season and his young career.
But it didn’t seem like it would end this way. With 5:41 to play, Missouri trailed by seven at 68-61 when Terrence Phillips committed his fifth foul. Phillips has been one of the few catalysts for good things this year so to see the team down by seven, his foul forcing two free throws which put the lead at 70-61, it felt like the end.
What a great moment for Kim Anderson & Terrence Phillips. pic.twitter.com/aRJLRHCemN— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) March 9, 2017
This was the replay, what wasn’t on the replay was the live shot when Kim looked up he was near tears and fighting off the emotion of having to let go of players he so obviously cares so much for. Phillips is the outspoken leader of this Tiger bunch, and losing him when you were looking at a nine point deficit its hard to say anyone saw a comeback coming. Missouri has been in this position a lot the last three years and it’s always gone the other way. But not tonight.
Kim Anderson on Terrence Phillips embrace: "There's a lot of emotion in all this. These guys have been good. He just told me he loved me."— Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell) March 9, 2017
This team isn’t good. Not even close. This was still only their eighth win on the year, and loss number 24 is certain. But for one more night we got to enjoy basketball again. For one more night we got to watch Kim Anderson on the sideline and show a level of joy he hasn’t quite experienced. Say what you will about this team and this coaching staff, they are made up of a group of great people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them over the course of the last few years.
From things that don’t matter like losing basketball games, to things that do like dealing with pediatric cancer, we’ve seen a group of people band together and fight and scrap and not give up despite all the reasons for them TO give up.
As I watched the end of the game it became fitting. It was fitting Cullen VanLeer hit big three after big three including the one to give them a shot. It was fitting the feistiness of Geist drawing a charge with a “bit” of acting that extended that chance. It was fitting Frankie Hughes, forlorn and lost for so much of the year found his 3-point stroke long enough to bury a game tying three with virtually not time left in regulation, then hit another in Overtime to tie the game at 83. And it was fitting Kevin Puryear, who puts far too much pressure on himself to be great found greatness in a 30 points night, culminating with a three pointer to extend the career of his head coach, if only for another night.
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rage, rage, for another night young Tigers. Rage against the dying of the light.