First Kim English and later Marcus Denmon motion to Missouri fans to stay in their seats. (Screengrab via ESPN …
As Missouri students prepared to flood the court just after their team's memorable 74-71 victory over rival Kansas on Saturday night, several Tigers players stood in their path and motioned for them to stay in their seats.
It wasn't that Missouri wasn't excited about erasing a late eight-point deficit to beat the Jayhawks for just the fourth time in Bill Self's tenure. It was just that the Tigers didn't like the message that a court-storming against a team ranked lower than them would send.
"We know Kansas is a great team but we're at home and we expect to win," senior Marcus Denmon explained to ESPN's Holly Rowe afterward.
Missouri wouldn't have been in violation of court-storming etiquette by celebrating forging a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 with a win over its fiercest rival, yet Denmon's gesture was both fitting and meaningful. It signified that this Tigers team believes it belongs in the Big 12 title chase with Kansas and Baylor, it belongs in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it belongs among the teams capable of making a deep run in March
All that is certainly possible if Denmon can play close to the level he did Saturday night for the rest of the season. The Kansas City native emerged from an 18-for-63 slump in his last five games to erupt for 29 points on Saturday including nine straight after the Jayhawks had taken a 71-63 lead with less than three minutes to play.
First Denmon drove hard to the rim, absorbed contact from Thomas Robinson and finished a three-point play to trim the deficit to five. Then after a very questionable charging call on Robinson, Denmon buried a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to suddenly give Missouri a one-point lead with 56 seconds to play in a game that seemed lost just seconds earlier.
Kansas fans will bemoan the blown charging call that cost Robinson a chance at perhaps a game-sealing three-point play, but the truth is the Jayhawks wasted numerous chances to clinch a victory even after that whistle went against them.
Tyshawn Taylor committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions and missed a pair of free throws. Connor Teahan inexplicably gave Denmon room to shoot his threes in the final two minutes. And Elijah Johnson looked like he had no interest in taking the potential game-tying shot on Kansas' final possession, passing up an open top-of-the-key three to search for an open teammate before running out of time and taking a contested desperation shot.
When Johnson's shot caromed hard off the glass at the buzzer, it gave Missouri its fourth win in the past 21 meetings with Kansas. And this was an especially big one since the rivalry could go on hiatus after this season because Missouri bailed on the Big 12 for the SEC and Kansas has refused to agree to an annual non-conference game.
From Robinson solidifying his lead in the national player of the year race with 25 points and 13 boards to Denmon etching his name into Missouri lore with his late-game brilliance, Saturday's game produced numerous memorable moments.
Hopefully Kansas can swallow its pride, do what's good for the fans and the sport and agree to an annual game non-conference game with the Tigers. If not, at least the second-to-last Border War for the foreseeable future proved to be a classic.