ST. LOUIS — The moment was sweet for Laurence Bowers.
With 1.3 seconds remaining, and Missouri holding a 75-64 lead over Illinois, Bowers walked over to the side of the Scottrade Center with Missouri fans and waved his arms up and down, a big grin on his face. The Tigers had sealed their second-straight victory over the Illini, and Bowers had quite a game, finishing with 13 points. He also came up with the play that sealed Missouri’s win.
After Illinois’ D.J. Richardson made a 3-pointer to cut Missouri’s lead to 62-61 with 37 seconds remaining, Missouri ran what coach Mike Anderson calls a “back at you,” where the Tigers go right down the court after giving up a basket and attempt a quick shot of their own. It took just six seconds for the Missouri fans to go from dead silent to erupting.
Missouri threw it down the court to a wide-open Bowers. While Bowers was going in for a layup, he was intentionally fouled by Illinois’ Mike Tisdale. Bowers screamed, along with the rest of the Missouri fans, and ran up and gave junior guard Marcus Denmon a high five.
“I’m just glad that I got open,” Bowers said. “When they made the three, I didn’t panic. I wasn’t sure if I made the basket or not because he pushed me, so I didn’t see the ball go through.”
Since it was an intentional foul, that meant that Bowers had two free throw shots, rather than just one. Illinois coach Bruce Weber ran to mid-court in protest of the call, and the refs gave him a technical foul, which meant Missouri would then get the ball after the free throws. Bowers made both of his free throws, and on the ensuing Missouri possession, Denmon made a layup to put the game out of reach for the Illini to make it a six-point possession for Missouri.
“I don’t like the intentional foul rule,” Weber said after the game. “It shouldn’t be in the book because it just puts everybody in a bind. He probably made a good call but I just don’t like that rule.”
That run was the beginning of 11 points for Missouri in just 18 seconds, making it impossible for Illinois to come back. When asked about it in the press conference, the players just laughed, and said “That’s the fastest 40 minutes for you,” alluding to the Tigers' basketball slogan.
“We were fortunate,” Bowers said. “I thought at the end, we wanted it a little more than they did. We just kept our head level and didn’t celebrate early, like we did against Georgetown, and it paid off for us.”
This all came on a night when, after Bowers suffered an injury to his right wrist when he collided with English while going for a rebound. It wasn’t certain whether or not he would return to the game. With English on top of him, Bowers lay on the floor clutching his right wrist. After roughly a minute, he was finally able to get back up to his feet and get back to the bench. He later said that it was more of just a shock pain, and that the injury is nothing serious.
The win for the Tigers was their first in the Braggin' Rights series when both teams were ranked. Mizzou had previously lost the last six meetings when both teams were ranked.