Zaire Taylor did it again.
Familiar with taking the big shot at the end of games, Taylor made a buzzer-beater at the end of overtime to give the Missouri men’s basketball team a 69-67 win against Iowa State on Tuesday night in Ames, Iowa, the Tigers’ 10th conference win of the season.
With the game tied and six seconds left, Taylor took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court, then jumped, hung in the air and banked the winner high off the backboard. He was immediately hugged by Michael Dixon Jr., who yelled into his left ear, before being surrounded by the rest of his teammates.
“It doesn’t look like a shot most people would take, but I actually take that shot pretty often in practice,” Taylor said during a postgame TV interview.
Taylor said he was looking for teammate Marcus Denmon to get open on the right side of the court, but Iowa State left one player to guard Taylor and didn’t stop his momentum, allowing him to get all the way to the basket.
Taylor said Kim English kissed him on the cheek a couple times in the locker room after the game. The celebrity status isn’t new to Taylor, who won over Missouri fans with his winning shot against Kansas last year. He also had a game-winner against Texas last season, and his 3-pointer in the last 30 seconds gave the Tigers a victory against Kansas State on Jan. 9.
“Who else to help finish it off in fine fashion than Zaire Taylor,” coach Mike Anderson said in a postgame radio interview. “Mr. big shot.”
Ten seconds before making the winner, Taylor, looking lost near the free-throw line, twisted in the air and threw in a shot using only his right hand to tie the game at 67.
He also kept Missouri (22-8, 10-5 Big 12) alive at the end of regulation. Down by two with less than 20 seconds left, Taylor flipped in an acrobatic shot against the taller Craig Brackins to help the Tigers force overtime.
The basket was Taylor’s first points of the game. He ended with just six points, but they were the three most important baskets of the game.
All of them were difficult attempts, symbolic of a rugged game that seemed to be slipping away from the Tigers several times at the end of overtime and regulation.
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty,” Anderson said. “I really don’t like the turnovers, the kind of turnovers we had. But you know what, I’ll take this win.”
Missouri had 19 turnovers and forced Iowa State (14-16, 3-12 Big 12) into 20 turnovers, making for a frenetic and often sloppy game. But it goes down as a key win for the Tigers, who with 10 wins in the highly regarded Big 12 would seem to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
It also keeps Missouri in contention for a top-four spot in the conference, which would earn the Tigers a bye in the first round of next week’s Big 12 Tournament. Missouri closes out the regular season Saturday against No. 2 Kansas at Mizzou Arena.