KANSAS CITY — Tuesday, the Missouri men’s basketball team claimed its largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the Associated Press started ranking teams in 1949.
When No. 21-ranked Missouri defeated No. 20 California by 39 points, even the coach was caught off guard.
"I was surprised by that score," coach Frank Haith said of Missouri's 92-53 win. His head twitched and hands flew up in front of him, as if he was still in shock. "I would never have guessed we could come in here and have that kind of separation."
Missouri's second largest margin, 26 points, came in 1988 when unranked Missouri defeated No. 10 Iowa State 119-93.
"They were super, absolutely sensational," said college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who was the ESPN analyst for both Missouri games in the tournament. "I never expected them to dominate like this. I thought they'd have a chance to win, but to beat Cal by 30 points-plus, unbelievable."
Equally surprising was the performance of senior Steve Moore.
Even during the game Tuesday night, Steve Moore was a trending topic on Twitter.
Moore replaced senior Ricardo Ratliffe, who was benched for early foul trouble, and sparked Missouri's offense. His two free throws in the first half were the beginning of a Missouri 11-0 run in two and a half minutes.
But the forward's moment of glory came late in the first. Trailing sophomore Phil Pressey, Moore saw he was in trouble. Catching Phil Pressey's behind-the-back pass, Moore looked to sophomore Kadeem Green, but the passing lane had closed.
"So I let it rip, and it went in."
His shot from behind the arc brought the primarily Missouri crowd to its feet. The senior forward, who prior to Tuesday night's game averaged only 2.75 points, scored 10 points, shooting 100 percent.
As points have spread out more evenly among players, and more players are finding themselves in the spotlight, a trend of teamwork has emerged.
"This is the best I've felt in my four years because it's the most selfless team I've played on," senior Kim English said. English led Missouri scoring with 19 points.
Senior Marcus Denmon was named the championship MVP, with 18 points, 6 rebounds and speed California couldn't stop. Missouri shot 59 percent, but coach Frank Haith knows that's not enough.
"It's naive to think that'll happen every single night," Haith said.
Haith gets more excited about the opponents' field goal percentage, taking pride in California shooting only 29 percent.
California leading scorers found themselves in serious foul trouble. Jorge Gutierrez led the Golden Bears with 11 points but fouled out with 11:12 left in the game. Two minutes later, Richard Solomon did the same, finishing his 13 minutes of play with 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Missouri plays Binghamton University at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mizzou Arena.