When Marcus Denmon made a free throw with 1:10 left in the second half, it felt like the Missouri’s men’s basketball team had sealed its first road win of the season. The Tigers led by eight. Texas Tech’s fans headed for the exits. The Red Raiders seemed buried.
But the win just wouldn’t come that easy. Not for a Missouri team that has often looked lost away from Mizzou Arena this season.
The Tigers blew an eight-point lead in the final minute. Two halves of solid play went down the drain when J.T. Tiller’s long last-second 3-point attempt missed and sent the game into overtime.
But after building another lead in overtime, Missouri made every one of its eight free throws, using the last four to finally finish the Red Raiders for a 94-89 victory Wednesday night in Lubbock, Texas.
After giving the Red Raiders a second life, Missouri (14-3, 2-0 Big 12) started overtime with four quick points. A 3-point shooting spree then ensued. Marcus Denmon's deep 3-pointer answered the two long 3-pointers of Texas Tech’s John Roberson.
Missouri built a five-point lead but saw it dwindle away to one after Brad Reese made a basket while getting fouled and sunk the free throw. The Tigers then lost possession on a jump ball with 30 seconds left, giving Texas Tech (12-4, 0-2) a chance to win the game on the last possession. Tiller fouled Nick Okorie, a 71-percent free-throw shooter. But Okorie missed both foul shots – the second one was on its way down but rattled out and off the backboard. Michael Dixon then made four straight free throws, and Missouri could finally take a deep breath.
“You try and put yourself in a position to ease one out, but life on the road is difficult,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said during his postgame radio interview. “It was an ugly win, but I’ll take an ugly win on the road any day.”
The Tigers were in a position to leave United Spirited Arena in Lubbock, Texas, with a comfortable win. With a minute left, many Texas Tech fans filed out with the game all but over.
“I guess they thought the game was over,” Laurence Bowers said in a phone interview after the game. “Apparently we did too.”
Despite letting an eight-point lead slip way, Missouri was optimistic between the end of regulation and overtime and came out aggressive in the extra period.
“The huddle was energetic. Everybody was hyped,” Bowers said. “We did everything we could to lose the game, so we knew if we picked up our play and play how we started off that we would be OK.”
Six Missouri players scored in double-figures, and two Tigers (Denmon and Kim English) scored 20. English also had 11 rebounds, becoming the first Missouri player to record a double-double this season.
Missouri, known for its defensive pressure and ability to cause turnovers, had two less steals and two more turnovers than Texas Tech. But the Tigers dominated at the free-throw line, hitting 32 of 41 foul shots. The Red Raiders made just 55 percent of their free throws.
Missouri is 2-0 in conference play, which doesn’t seem like much. But the only other teams to survive two Big 12 games without a loss are No. 1 Texas and No. 3 Kansas.
And the Tigers now have that sometimes impossible first road win off their back.
“We really wanted this game,” Bowers said. “Everybody had that fire in their eyes. They wanted this first road win.”