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Top Moments of the 2010s: Puryear for the win...

The sophomore gave the coach who recruited him one last triumph before the end.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Auburn vs Missouri Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We were still a few days away from the end of the Kim Anderson era, but the writing had been on the wall for what felt like ages.

In the early days of January 2017, Jim Sterk released a statement concerning Missouri’s basketball program and its dismal results under alumnus Kim Anderson:

I clearly understand where our program is currently, and rest assured that we are all disappointed with where we stand entering SEC play.

It is not my preferred style to make public evaluations of our staff in the middle of a season, as that is not fair to our coaches, or players.

This may have not been an out-and-out dismissal of Anderson, but even the acknowledgement was enough. Sterk was giving fans the nod and wink. A little more than two months later, Anderson would be gone and Cuonzo Martin would eventually take his place.

For those two months, watching Missouri basketball felt... hollow? There was a cloud hanging over the program that surely no one enjoyed, least of all Anderson. The former star had done his best to stabilize the program, but hadn’t found on-court success.

The days ticked by. March came. Missouri found itself in the basement of the SEC once more, apparently destined for a first round exit in Nashville.

Well, not unless Kevin Puryear had anything to say about it.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Auburn vs Missouri Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Sam’s recap of the game is excellent, and I’d highly recommend that you read it in full. But here’s one particularly good excerpt:

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.

Puryear represented the hope of the Kim Anderson era. An All-SEC freshman in his first campaign, Puryear stood for the promise of Missouri basketball as a grassroots project. An under-recruited player from Blue Springs, Mo., fans hoped Puryear would become the type of four-year foundation piece that would ultimately propel the Tigers back to the heights they had enjoyed in the Big 12.

That didn’t necessarily work out the way we hoped, but for one night, Puryear was everything his coach asked of him. As Sam put it in the link above, Puryear, “who puts far too much pressure on himself to be great found greatness in a 30 point night, culminating with a three pointer to extend the career of his head coach, if only for another night.”

In what would be Missouri’s last win under Kim Anderson, Puryear gave the Kim Anderson era the feel good moment it needed in the end. It may not have come during the highest of highs for Missouri basketball, but it’s hard to look back on it without a smile.