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Freshman Kim English's free throws lead Tigers to Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 8:57 p.m. CDT; updated 1:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, March 27, 2009
Missouri freshman guard Kim English cuts along the baseline in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. English finished the game with a career-high 17 points in only 12 minutes of play.

BOISE, Idaho — With 5.5 seconds left in a tie game, the hero for Missouri was still on the bench.

After J.T. Tiller was fouled hard on a drive and had to leave the game with an injured right wrist that has been bothering him all season, freshman Kim English took his spot at the free throw line and calmly sank both free throws.

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After a long and drawn out final five seconds, Missouri had won its school-record 30th game and was celebrating its 83-79 victory over Marquette, and its first berth in the Sweet Sixteen since 2002.

"Can't nobody shake Kimmie's confidence," Missouri senior Leo Lyons said. "When he came in, he had that look in his eyes that everybody's seen before. He was shooting the ball with confidence, he had a nice release and everything was going in for us."

English scored 15 points in six minutes to spark an 18-5 run that gave the Tigers a 29-22 lead in the first half. He finished with a career-high 17 points in 12 minutes.

Matt Lawrence added nine points in a first half when the Tigers' top two scorers, DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons, were held to four points each. Marquette put more focus on Missouri's guards in the second half, allowing Lyons and Carroll to step up and finish with 33 combined points.

"That's the beauty of our team," Carroll said. "You can't just key in on one guy. Everybody can put the ball in the basket, and everybody can contribute in their own way."

After Tiller was fouled, he tried to move his wrist, but he said it went numb so he couldn't really flick it in his normal shooting motion. After English made the free throws, Tiller tried to come back in the game to play defense, but the rules require that time must run off the clock.

When Leo Lyons got fouled following a Marquette turnover with five seconds left, Tiller was allowed to come back onto the floor. Tiller, a 75-percent free throw shooter, said it was hard for him to come out of the game and forgo his chance to win it for his team, but he had lost the feeling in his wrist and wouldn't have been able to shoot.

 "As soon as he got fouled, I said, 'J.T.'s going to make these two free throws.' When he got hurt, I couldn't miss them for him," English said. "I knew he would have felt terrible if he would have missed, so I just knew he would have made those free throws, and I knew that everyone else on the team would have made those free throws."

Both English and freshman Marcus Denmon looked up from the bench expectantly when it became clear Tiller wasn't going to be able to shoot. For the season, Denmon is a 79 percent free throw shooter. English had made 68 percent of his free throws coming into the game.

"I had that thought," Anderson said. "But I also had the instinct, the intuitiveness to say, 'Hey, this guy's been on a roll today. I think he's feeling it.'"

The coach's instincts paid off. The 6-foot-6 guard from Baltimore, Md., became the star of the day. But even though English made six of 11 field goal attempts Sunday in Boise, Anderson said he still has to occasionally remind the eager freshman to not play over his head and force bad shots.

"I think that's the confidence of a guy that can score and shoot the basketball," Anderson said. "He never thinks he's going to take a bad shot. He never does. And I always encourage our guys to take good shots."

Before he came to Boise, English had missed 30 of his last 37 field goals, including 18 of his last 22 3-pointers. In the first two NCAA Tournament games of his career, he led all Missouri guards with 30 points and made six of 10 3-pointers.

Despite his success and new-found acclaim, English is still quick to praise his teammates and emphasize the role of defense in Missouri's success. The freshman, who started 13 of 16 Big 12 games, never questioned Anderson's decision to not give him more minutes Sunday.

"I'm Matt Lawrence's backup," English said. "I understand that's my role, and I'm in the game to give Matt rest, and when he's ready to come back in, that's when it's my time to come out."

The Tigers will fly back to Columbia on Sunday night and leave Tuesday for Glendale, Ariz., where they'll meet the No. 2 Memphis Tigers in the Sweet 16. After a scare in the first round against Cal-State Northridge, Memphis crushed No. 10-seed Maryland 89-70 Saturday.


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Comments

Kim English March 23, 2009 | 1:26 a.m.

Please, don't make the obvious mistakes. Missouri was last in the sweet sixteen in 2002, not 2001. Now I know the reporter probably hasn't lived in Missouri since then, but one of the editors more than likely has. Get it right.

(Report Comment)
Luke Thompson March 24, 2009 | 12:55 a.m.

That's my fault. I should have checked that when I was writing the story rather than just going from memory. Thanks for pointing it out.

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