Of all the memorable performances we've seen in the opening month of this college basketball season, few came under more difficult circumstances than what Missouri's Marcus Denmon accomplished Wednesday night.
Still grief-stricken over the death of his beloved cousin Marion Denmon the previous day, Denmon nonetheless gave an effort against Vanderbilt that will be remembered as a testament to his resilience. The 6-foot-3 junior scored 19 of his 21 points after halftime and then made the decisive play in overtime to lift Missouri to an 85-82 victory over the Commodores.
With 5.8 seconds left in overtime and the score tied at 82, Denmon deflected a lazy Vanderbilt pass, chased it down near midcourt and drove to the rim for the go-ahead layup. Denmon got fouled, too, and sank the free throw, generating a huge roar from a crowd of 11,168, most of whom had no idea about his family tragedy.
Denmon took the death of his cousin especially hard because they grew up together in the same house in Kansas City. They played basketball together, went to school together and were as close as most brothers.
According to the Kansas City Star, Marion Denmon, 20, was a passenger in a car that got caught between shooters in two vehicles exchanging gunfire at 2:19 a.m. on Friday. Denmon died at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City on Tuesday afternoon.
Denmon understandably didn't speak to reporters after Wednesday's game, but he did provide a window into his grief via Facebook earlier in the day.
Dnt nobody kno how I feel rite now dnt nobody no my pain...i lost my Lil Bro and ain't Nuthn nobody can say or do to make it n e bettr.
Hours after writing that, Denmon overcame a 1-for-6 shooting first half against Vanderbilt and took over with Missouri down six early in the second. He scored via layups and jump shots, almost single-handedly willing the Tigers back into the game.
It was an impressive performance under any circumstances. It was even more amazing considering everything Denmon has endured.