Taylor, Tigers stay calm under pressure

The Missouri Tigers win a program-record 30th game and head to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 8:58 p.m. CDT; updated 12:15 a.m. CDT, Monday, March 23, 2009
Missouri guard Zaire Taylor drives past Marquette's Dominic James in the first half of the Tigers' second-round NCAA Tournament game. In a team huddle during the final minutes of the game, Taylor inspired teammates by saying they had been in similar situations before.

BOISE, Idaho — Down four points with 1:59 left, the Missouri players came together on the floor.

After leading by 16 points in the first half, the Tigers were facing the end of their season. A couple players collapsed to a knee in exhaustion. Senior forward Leo Lyons said he was shocked to be behind.


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Junior point guard Zaire Taylor smiled.

"This ain't nothing. We've been here before," Taylor told his teammates.

Literally, it wasn't true. None of the Missouri players who appeared in Sunday's game have played in the NCAA Tournament before. But Taylor's teammates understood his message perfectly.

"It's confidence," Taylor said. "It's Psych-1000. Self-fulfilling prophecy. You got to believe you can do it if you want to do it. ... That's the secret to life."

In winning 29 games before Sunday, Missouri had encountered every game situation. The Tigers drew on defining moments like Taylor's game-winning shots against Kansas and Texas or the senior night win over Oklahoma for confidence.

"When he said that, that told me our guys are going to buckle down and makes some plays," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.

When the game resumed, Taylor went over to Marquette guard Jerel McNeal, who scored a game-high 30 points.

"Hey, one of us is going to be happy in a little bit," Taylor said to McNeal. Taylor would be the happy one.

From the moment Taylor addressed his teammates, Missouri played perfectly under pressure to pull out an 83-79 win and advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Glendale, Ariz., against Memphis.

"I did not see any panic in our guys. That's the key," Anderson said. "They may have been tired, but they did not panic."

Down by two with just more than a minute to play, Missouri played stifling defense, forcing Marquette into a shot clock violation after a desperate contested 3-point shot smacked off the backboard.

On the next possession, Leo Lyons bobbled the ball under the basket but recovered to make a reverse lay-up despite being fouled. He made the free throw to put Missouri up one.

After Marquette tied the game with a free throw, J.T. Tiller handled the Marquette pressure calmly. He ran the clock down under 10 seconds and then charged to the basket off a screen from Lyons.

Tiller was fouled and injured on the play, but freshman Kim English came in and made the two free throws with 5.5 seconds left to put Missouri ahead.

During a timeout late in the game, the video board showed UCLA guard Tyus Edney driving the length of the floor in the final seconds of a 1995 NCAA Tournament game to beat Missouri with a last-second jumper in Boise in the second round. 

The Tigers wouldn't let that happen again. Marquette forward Lazar Hayward stepped over the end line when he couldn't find anyone open to throw the ball to.

"Coach told us before we even came in this tournament that none of ya'll ever been to a NCAA Tournament, so ya'll just follow me, and I'll lead you all the right way," senior DeMarre Carroll said. "And I think he's been leading us the right way ever since."

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Robert craig March 23, 2009 | 6:38 a.m.

Quite a heart-stopper! Keep it up Tigers!

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Merle Wright March 23, 2009 | 11:16 a.m.

I think the Marquette coach should get some kind of sanction!

Very unsportsman conduct at the end.


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