God, this was a fun one.
Writing about Mizzou Hoops for the past seven years has been a lot of things, but it hasn’t been all that fun. Even when Mizzou has been good, they’ve been good in only the way Mizzou can be that makes them still sort of hard-to-watch. That they’re now extremely fun to watch is a nice change of pace. That they’re likable is a neat bonus. That they’re also pretty good is just icing on the cake.
Endings like Saturday don’t happen to Mizzou all that often. Well, they happen to Mizzou but they don’t happen for Mizzou. Honestly, they don’t happen for anyone all that often unless you’re a team that’s consistently good enough to be competitive, but not so good that you’re putting away most opponents early in games. But it especially feels like the happy ending section of Mizzou’s ledger has been especially empty as of late.
That’s what makes this win special. Will it matter in the long run? Probably not all that much. If a neutral site win against UCF is Mizzou’s best in March, the Tigers won’t be dancing. And if they are dancing, they’ve probably got better wins to show off than this one. But it’s memorable because of how... ordinary it was. Mizzou didn’t play a great game. It was on a Saturday afternoon when most of us aren’t conditioned to watch basketball. On a channel not a lot of people have access to. The eyes of the college basketball world were certainly not on The Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL.
But we’ll remember it. Whether or not it portends a tournament bid or a deep run in March, it’ll be a nice memory for us to have, a glimmer of brevity in what’s been an exceedingly bleak decade of basketball. Don’t discount things that are fun for fun’s sake. Like slipping on a last-second play and happening to roll the ball to a shooter who wins banks in a shot from the logo.
God, that was a fun one.
Why Tha Depahted you may ask. Because it honestly isn’t very good, but you wouldn’t remember that because of how it ends.
In the public consciousness, The Departed may be one of Martin Scorsese’s most memorable movies. This is the man who made Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Silence, The Irishman... Kundun! But what’s his movie with a Best Picture Oscar? That’s right: Tha Depahted! Say that with a Jack Nicholson Boston accent and it’ll make even less sense, because his Boston accent is atrocious.
The Departed is far from Scorsese’s best effort in much the same way that Mizzou’s win over UCF on Saturday was far from theirs. Sure, the Tigers shot over 50 percent from three. But their trademark brand of basketball under Dennis Gates thus far — lots of assists, controlling possession, fast-paced and generating steals — was entirely missing. The Tigers had just as many turnovers as assists. They stole the ball fewer times than the Knights. They committed six more fouls. And yet they won. Because of that ending. Oh, boy that ending.
Yeah, I’m going to spoil Tha Depahted, so don’t be mad at me.
Look I’m not saying I had the same sensation watching Dree Gholston almost break a backboard as I did watching Leo DiCaprio, then Anthony Anderson, then James Badge Dale, then Matt Damon get murked in the span of five minutes. But did they both generate excitement! Loads of it! And I laughed just as much watching Mark Wahlberg in a pair of plastic booties as I did watching a UCF fan almost throw his back out in anger (see below).
By Scorsese’s standards, Tha Depahted is a mess. An intentional mess, maybe, but a mess nonetheless. I can’t say for sure that Dennis Gates planned on winning in Florida the way he did, but I have to believe he prepped his team for a messier game than what they’re used to. After all, you have to recover from absolute stinkers somehow (if you’re reading that as a stray shot at The Aviator... then go ahead) and you’ll take wins any way you can get them.
So was it good? Debatable! Was it fun! Not debatable! Give me fun, bad movies over predictable “good” ones every day of the week.
★★★★☆ for that game, ★★★★★ for that shot, and ★★★★☆ for Tha Depahted, which I’d love less if it didn’t feature Alec Baldwin at the driving range and Matt Damon talking about his johnson “working overtime”
Is it just me, or is everyone getting sick these days?
I feel like I haven’t been fully healthy in, I don’t know, three weeks? I guess it kind of makes sense. After all, I did hear someone in a health care setting recently mention that we’re currently in something called a “triple pandemic”? No thanks, one is plenty.
I was thinking about this as I watched Missouri battle its way to a buzzer-beating win over UCF in The Sunshine State. The Tigers were in need of recovery after last weekend’s brutal Border War loss [author’s note: kansas is kind of like the COVID-19 of programs, isn’t it? Constant pain in the ass that gets more annoying and unbeatable as time goes on? Eh, maybe that’s a stretch], and going to Florida to face UCF didn’t exactly promise a whole lot of quality R&R. No, sometimes you need to get out of bed, take a hot shower and get your lungs working to kill what’s ailing you.
But, as in dealing with sickness, wins like Saturdays require some supplements. And on Saturday, Mizzou got served a heaping helping of Luck. Sure, Dree Gholston has probably practiced that shot a million times throughout his life. But let’s be realistic: what do we think his shooting range is from 40 feet? Can’t be any higher than the chances of a prone D’Moi Hodge weakly rolling a pass right to the only open guy on the floor, right? Those two plays combined — impressive as they seem in hindsight — feel like the stroke of fortune that teams like Mizzou need when they’re looking to get on the right side of the bubble.
As an added benefit, good fortune is fun as hell. It’s murderous to be on the wrong end of, but you really can’t hyperbolize how good it feels when a stroke of luck hits your team. It’s the feverish feeling if you escaped impending doom and now get to thumb your nose at it in defiance. How bad would it have felt to potentially go 0-3 to end the non-conference schedule after starting 9-0? Extremely bad. Now we can stomach the thought of possibly entering SEC play at 10-2 — though those two losses being to kansas and Illinois [editor’s note: is Josh predicting the future?] is enough to give me another migraine — with some quality road/neutral wins on the resume.
As Mizzou mobbed Gholston at the buzzer, I couldn’t help but notice the orange graphic at mid-court and think a little bit of (figurative) Vitamin C was just what the doctor ordered. It kicked the cold of getting trounced by kansas and put the Tigers right back on track for this week’s Braggin Rights showdown. Was it a perfect game? No. But it sure seems a lot more fun in retrospect.
For surviving a trip to the land of citrus, Mizzou gets four out of five Emergen-C packets for their win over UCF. Stay healthy, y’all.
Dunk Buzzer Beater Index
Look, I get it. I said not two weeks ago that this space was going to be reserved for dunks. And I understand if you’ll want to bail on this column following this section. “He can’t even maintain his own internal logic for more than two weeks,” you’ll say. I agree. I’m a fool, a cad, a jester who shouldn’t be taken seriously.
But come on. Forty-foot buzzer-beaters don’t come around every day. If you’re a YouTube highlight reel guy (like me) maybe the one thing you’ll search more often than “best dunks of blankety-blank year” is “best all-time buzzer beaters.” They’re memorable. Hell, I remember Kevin Puryear’s buzzer-beater against Auburn way better than I remember any dunk he ever put on someone, and he played for Mizzou for four years.
Despite any good dunks that came along — and, to be honest, I can’t remember if there were any, Dree Gholston’s shot was that nice — there’s no beating the pure disrespect of snatching an opponent’s dub right out from under their noses. Especially not on a bank shot. Good god almighty.
As a reminder, here’s the scoring curricula, which I’ve adapted for the buzzer beater:
Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the shot? (0-20)
Category 2: What did the shooter do immediately afterward? (0-20)
Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it? (0-20)
Category 4: Is there a backstory between the shooter and the defender? (0-15)
Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little? (0-5)
Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)
And you’ve seen the play already... probably many times. But why not relive it anyway?
- Category 1: How difficult/impressive was the shot? (0-20)
When’s the last time you hit a shot from the logo under the pressure of a fading clock? That’s what I thought.
On top of the distance and the pressure, I would also like to point out the unnatural path Dree has to take the ball to get it in his shooting rhythm. As impressive as D’Moi Hodge’s roll was, it wasn’t exactly a chest pass fired into Gholston’s step. The senior has to bend over at the waist and scoop the ball up like a dad in a driveway. I just made a dad noise thinking about it.
He then continues with his momentum leading into something of an unnatural shot. The only thing that could’ve made it more difficult would be greater distance, but you shoot ‘em where you get ‘em.
- Category 2: What did the shooter do immediately afterward? (0-20)
Gholston had precisely 1.5 seconds before getting form tackled by the entirety of the Mizzou Hoops roster, but by god did he make the most of it. With his momentum carrying him to the bench and, coincidentally, right toward Dennis Gates, the senior watches the shot fall and immediately squares up with the coach that made him an SEC ball player. The two start flexing at each other like a pair of vikings about to go to war.
Did any of you see The Northman? It was like that scene at the beginning of The Northman when Alexander Skarsgård and the homies are wolfing out. Exquisite. I can’t give it perfect points since it’s not technically “disrespectful” but I can give it lots of bonus points for hype because it’s my column, damn it.
- Category 3: How hard did the defender try to stop it?
Look, I can’t be too hard on Brandon Suggs, the defender closest to Gholston at the time. D’Moi Hodge was the primary threat on that play and when he absolutely ate shit trying to change directions, the natural inclination is to swarm and try to dispossess him. That Hodge was able to get the ball to Gholston at all likely absolves Suggs of any blame. That’s just good basketball sense from Hodge. Look at where Suggs is when Hodge rolls the ball.
I guess Suggs could’ve closed off the passing lane knowing Hodge couldn’t go anywhere? But I really can’t talk too much trash as that’s what 99.99999999 percent of defenders would’ve done. Besides, Gholston is at half court at that point. No way he hits this shot.
- Category 4: Is there a backstory between the shooter and the defender?
None that I can think of, unless Gholston and Brandon Suggs ran into each other at some point during their amateur hoops circuit or if Milwaukee ever played East Carolina (Suggs’ former school.) I would argue, however, that Gholston’s season lends itself to an interesting storyline. The senior transfer has come under harsh scrutiny in the absence of Isiaih Mosley, who would likely be starting if not for the personal problems that have derailed his transition to the Mizzou roster. Gholston has been criticized and analyzed to pieces (by this site included), and he’s struggled more than anyone else that regularly cracks the starting five.
But Gholston’s long-range heave — the final three of his 16 points on the night, all in the second half — capped one of his best games as a Tiger thus far. Not to mention, he’s got a history with buzzer-beaters, right DG? We can’t go very high here, but we’ll throw in some bonus points for what it means to Gholston personally.
- Category 5: Did the ball go straight through the rim or did it rattle around a little?
I’m not sure anyone has ever banked a shot harder than this one. I swear, I heard the echo reverberate in St. Louis. I felt the earth move. The mighty titans awoke from their slumber. I think a few tectonic plates may have shifted.
That mf’er went thud against the backboard.
Normally, this would be a straight 0, because what Gholston did is just about as far from swishing a shot as you can ever get. But let’s squint our eyes together for just one second. What happens after the ball banks off the backboard?
Oh damn, you’re right. It swishes. What a discovery we’ve made together. That’s buttoned up tight, and I won’t hear differently.
- Category 6: How did everyone not immediately involved react? (0-20)
I’d like to formally break this down into three categories:
Let’s start with 1. Tigers. Prepare yourself for death by screenshots and captions (if you’ve read this column, you know to pay attention to captions.) First up is Nick Honor, who proceeds to nearly leap his teammate in a single bound like a majestic antelope.
Second up is Ronnie DeGray III, who yeets into the astral plane.
Third up is Ben Sternberg, who apparently tried to murder Gholston in the huddle????
Moving onto 2. Knights. First up is Brandon Suggs (we met him earlier), who pulls out the classic Surrender Cobra.
Second is senior Ithiel Horton (Middle-Earth-ass name) who collapses under the weight of disappointment.
Next, we’ll move to the fans, and boy are there some doozies here.
Pay close attention in the video (copied above for clarity) to the man in the grey/green shirt in the bottom right. When the shot falls, my man loses his mind and starts billionaire strutting onto the court like a maniac. Incredible.
Second, and this will be harder to see so look hard: There’s a group of people situated in the top right corner of the screen, right behind the basket. As part of that group, there’s an older gentleman who jerks upward with such disgust after the shot that I can only assume he ruptured every single disc along his spine. It’s like in a mid-2000’s R-rated comedy when someone gets rocked in the face and they go sprawling backward, except what rocked his face was cold hard reality.
Finally, and most importantly to be honest, are the Mizzou fans behind the bench who start losing their godforsaken minds. Beautiful.
And last, but certainly not least, we have 4. Audio. This one isn’t hard to find, as you may hear when you rewatch the highlight an ethereal screech that sustains itself throughout the celebration. I’m not sure what banshee or hellwitch they let into that game, but I can only assume it was the collective souls of 1,000 deceased Tiger fans releasing their primal screams into the Florida air at the sight of Mizzou hitting an improbable buzzer beater.
It’s ear-piercing. It’s unholy. And it’s perfect.
WHAT A CATEGORY!
Dree Gholston’s buzzer-beating three was 77 percent disrespectful to UCF and its fans.
Superlatives and Awards
Most Likely To Get New Treads: D’Moi Hodge, my man, you can’t be riding on bald tires.
Most Dysfunctional: So uh... what’s going on in Champaign?
#illini Matthew Mayer: "We got a lot to figure out internally between the players and coaches."— Jeremy Werner (@JWerner247) December 18, 2022
OK, but if one guy says it, it’s just-
#illini Terrence Shannon: "It's just something we got to figure out as a team. Once we figure it out, we'll be ready to talk about it. ...We're good. We're happy. We won the game. There's stuff we can fix obviously."— Jeremy Werner (@JWerner247) December 18, 2022
Sure, but even two people seems like-
“I mean, they’re 8-3 with a pair of Top 10 wins so things can’t be all bad,” I say with my fingers crossed.
Mentally Toughest: Look, Ronnie DeGray III has been written off all season. But my guy showed up in one of the biggest games of the season, played 28 minutes — which makes up 37 percent of the total minutes he’s played this season — and turned in a massive performance. Can his rebounding prowess save the Tigers down low?
Best Relationship with the Dry Cleaner: Desiree Reed-Francois probably has an excellent dry cleaner. You’d have to for all of those immaculate power suits. (Also, look at who she replied to. It’s US,)
I’ll gladly pick up that bill.— DR_Francois (@DRFrancois1) December 17, 2022