COLUMBIA — The biggest play of Tuesday night's game didn’t happen when the players were on the court.
It was made by a 26-year-old fan from Centralia, attending his first Missouri men's basketball game at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers set a school record for steals with 24, and couldn't miss from the floor to score a 99-56 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga to wrap up the opening rounds of the South Padre Invitational. Kim English sank a fade-away circus shot along the baseline as part of a a 26-point night that included five three-pointers. But it was Jacob Stout, not English, who had the more impressive shot.
At halftime of another early season blow-out, Jacob Stout stepped to the free-throw line to compete in a contest with a chance to win $5,000. The Tigers were up 59-28 and fresh off a standing ovation from a crowd of 6,000 as it headed to the locker room.
The timer began and Stout started shooting. He was short on his first few attempts until he began to find his groove. He made six free throws, beating out his competitor for the chance to shoot a half-court shot for the cash prize.
“I was a little nervous because all my shots were short because I had no legs. Once you start shooting though it’s just shooting,” Stout said.
After being moved to half court, Stout kept his thoughts simple. Put the ball close to the rim. He did more than that. Stout took a diving leap forward shoving the ball toward the hoop. The ball struck the back iron of the rim and slammed in. The crowd erupted in cheers as loud as the ones in the game. Stout sprinted around with his arms extended and hugged his brother. He then went to the baseline to collect his early Christmas present. He said he still doesn’t have the words to describe his emotions.
“I don’t know, it’s a rush. I don’t know how to describe it. You just throw up a hope and a prayer and hope it goes in,” Stout said with eyes as wide as the rim he had just been shooting at.
According to Andrew Grinch, MU's assistant director of athletics for marketing, this was the first time he has seen someone make the half-court shot in his nine years on the job. He said he was not too surprised that someone made the shot.
“I’ve seen several people rim it in and out and come close. Hit the rim, that kind of thing,” Grinch said. “I figured that it would happen eventually, and tonight was the night.”
Stout said he was surprised he made the shot, but he had ironically been practicing it Sunday night at a Centralia gym with some high school students. He only made a couple in 15 minutes worth of shooting, but Tuesday night it only took three seconds to make one. After the shot he hurried to call his wife. It took several attempts to persuade her he had actually won $5,000. He said she thought he was lying to her, and told him to stop joking around.
“I had to tell her like six times before she believed me. She told me to quit lying and be serious,” Stout said. “She was just happy, but to talk about it (the money) later.”
Stout said that he planned to use the money on Christmas gifts for his 10-month-old daughter, but it is up to his wife on what gifts they will get his daughter. However, the money helped Stout enjoy the game.
“A little more than I normally would, but a 30-point lead for Missouri is good enough for me,” Stout said.
Stout, who is an assistant coach for the Sunnydale Adventist Academy girls basketball team, said he can’t wait to tell his team about the shot, not for the story, but for something else.
“They (the girls) can’t question me on shooting anymore,” Stout said laughing.
Missouri will play against Old Dominion at 7:30 p.m. Friday in South Padre Island, Texas, in the start of bracket play of the South Padre Invitational.