Marcus Denmon had gathered four 3-pointers and 17 points before he stepped to the free-throw line with 9.2 seconds left and Missouri leading by one against Oral Roberts on Wednesday night in Tulsa, Okla. But Denmon missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the ball back to the Golden Eagles.
After racing down the court, Dominique Morrison found Michael Craion open under the basket. Craion’s shot went off the backboard, bounced high off the rim and finally fell through to give Oral Roberts a stunning 60-59 win, denying Missouri what had looked to be its first road win of the season.
"He (Craion) just kind of heaved it up there, and it bounced in, got the bounce," forward Justin Safford said in a phone interview after the game. "... It hurts because we had it, and we let it slip through our hands.”
Oral Roberts trailed by as much as 11 but cut Missouri’s lead to one with 1:27 left. Keith Ramsey missed a layup on the Tigers’ next possession, giving the Golden Eagles the ball with a chance to regain the lead.
But Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller double-teamed Kyron Stokes, and Taylor poked the ball loose. Tiller dived and grabbed the ball. After a timeout, Laurence Bowers tipped in a Denmon miss with 46 seconds remaining to give the Tigers a three-point lead.
Oral Robert’s Kevin Ford had a dunk with 10 seconds left to again make it a one-point game. The Golden Eagles immediately fouled Denmon after Missouri inbounded the ball, and Denmon missed the free throw to leave the door open for Oral Roberts.
With less than a second remaining, the Tigers heaved a desperation pass downcourt, but it was easily intercepted.
“I don’t think that’s (Denmon’s miss) the difference in the game,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in his postgame radio interview. “I think the difference in the game is our inability to make stops.”
Missouri led 57-49 with 4:19 remaining, but Morrison, who had a game-high 21 points, reeled off seven straight points to cut the lead to one and put Oral Roberts (6-4) in position for the upset.
“On the road, teams are gonna make runs back at you, and you’ve got to be able to finish off games,” Anderson said. “It’s kind of like we almost found a way to lose the game.”
Anderson cited turnovers by seniors, missed free throws and giving up tip-ins as reasons for Missouri’s collapse down the stretch. With 1:35 left and Missouri leading by four, Taylor, like Denmon, missed the front end of a one-and-one. Less than a minute earlier, Taylor and Tiller, two of Missouri’s three seniors, committed turnovers within 25 seconds of each other.
After Oral Roberts committed its seventh foul of the half to put Missouri (5-3) in the bonus, the Tigers should have been more aggressive to draw fouls, Anderson said. But Missouri attempted just three free throws in the game.
“I thought going down the stretch, we kind of lost that attack mode that you’ve got to continue to have,” Anderson said.
Missouri has seemed like a different team away from Mizzou Arena this season. After erasing an early 10-point deficit, the Tigers appeared poised to put their road troubles behind them on Wednesday. But it was poise that they lacked down the stretch.
“I keep saying this is a young basketball team,” Anderson said. “But at the same time, our guys have been through enough wars to understand what poise is about.”
Missouri returns home to play Fairleigh-Dickinson on Saturday and won’t get another chance for a road win until Jan. 13 when it travels to Texas Tech for the second game of the Big 12 season.
“It’s just life on the road, and as a team we have to learn to steal em on the road,” Safford said. “It’s tough.”