Sun, 22 Dec 2013 02:59:10 GMT —
ST. LOUIS --- The Missouri Tigers scored the first eight points of Saturday's game against Illinois.
Just six minutes into the affair, the lead was nine at 15-6.
Were you feeling good, Tiger fans? If you were, you haven't seen this game before. You shouldn't have been feeling much of anything.
Except Holiday cheer, of course.
This game has more swings than a city park. Always.
This installment of the Braggin' Rights Game --- sponsored, appropriately enough, by Bud Light --- had no less than six ties and 15 lead changes after Missouri's early salvo.
The last lead change came with 4 seconds left, when Tracy Abrams made two free throws to give the Illini a gut-wrenching 65-64 win before 22,970 zealous fans at the Scottrade Center.
"It was a hard-fought, high-level game ... it was a very, very physical ball game, especially in the second half," Tigers coach Frank Haith said. "I thought our guys competed, we just came up short."
The Illini (10-2) used a 10-0 run to erase that 15-6 lead for the No. 23 Tigers (10-1), went on to build a six-point lead, before carrying a 31-27 lead into the break.
Back came the Tigers, who used a 14-2 outburst to regain a 53-46 lead with nine minutes left. The run was capped on a short jumper by 6-5 junior Jordan Clarkson, who had a huge night with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
"Jordan's really establishing himself as a very good player," Haith said.
Clarkson had two great assists late, setting up 3-pointers by Earnest Ross with 1:55 left to give MU a 61-59 lead, and one by Jabari Brown with just 14 seconds left, giving the Tigers a 64-63 lead.
"That was great execution on that out of bounds play," Haith said.
True. But then, Haith opted to call the Tigers' final timeout as soon as Brown's shot splashed through the net --- and when Illinois was out of timeouts.
Kids, before asking your mom and dad how reindeer fly, ask them why in the world Frank Haith would call a timeout at that point?
Use your best Nancy Kerrigan voice, kids ... why, why, why? ... like you just got hit on the knee.
(Then after you ask them who Nancy Kerrigan is, ask them about the reindeer, of course.)
This allowed the Illini to set up its final play. While they botched the ball around a bit, Abrams drove the lane and was fouled by Jonathan Williams III.
How could you make that call with time running out and the game on the line?
Because Williams whacked Abrams across the arm like he had crazed animal on it.
Abrams, who finished with 22 points, made both free throws and the Tigers --- now out of timeouts (would have been nice to have one, eh?) --- ended up with a forget-me-not air-ball heave at the buzzer by Ross.
"It's tough to lose a game like this," Haith said. "There are going to be a lot of things we can look back on."
Including that timeout.