Throughout the 32-year history of Hearnes Center, two teams have visited Columbia and gone on to win the national championship.
During the regular season, few expected either team to be among the nation’s best, but both put it together during a strong March.
Although Missouri has never reached the Final Four, the Tigers can claim to have beaten an eventual national champion at Hearnes. On Jan. 9, 1983, the Tigers stifled a strong North Carolina State offense and earned a 49-42 win.
At the time, the game was a matchup of teams ranked in the teens. As the season went on, though, Missouri’s win came to mean much more. The Wolfpack fought its way through the NCAA Tournament, becoming national champions after beating heavily favored Houston 54-52 on Lorenzo Charles’ last-second dunk.
Not many expected North Carolina State’s championship run; it had to win its conference tournament just to make the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack’s loss to Missouri shocked few. The game itself had more flavor than a typical Big Eight Conference-Atlantic Coast Conference contest. It came in Missouri guard Jon Sundvold’s final season and matched him against Derrick Whittenburg, one of the nation’s top scorers. The previous summer, Sundvold beat out Whittenburg for a spot on the FIBA World Championships team, much to Whittenburg’s dismay.
“I’ve been waiting for this matchup for a long time,” Whittenburg said at the time. “It’s always been in my mind. It was a type of motivation … I kind of felt like he took my spot. I thought I should have made it.”
Whittenburg’s play persuaded few. He scored nine in the loss, and Sundvold had 19 to lead all scorers.
The game was one of Missouri’s biggest wins on its run to a fourth consecutive Big Eight title. The Tigers, though, fell to Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack had bigger things in store.
Although North Carolina State’s tournament run might have been more surprising, Kansas’ championship campaign in 1988 ranks also was unexpected. Forward Danny Manning was an undeniable inside force for the Jayhawks, but they struggled to put together a consistent season, making the NCAA Tournament as a No. 6 seed.
Manning led the Jayhawks to the Final Four in Kansas City with 56 points, 28 rebounds and nine steals in Kansas’ last two wins. For his efforts, the club earned the nickname “Danny and the Miracles.”
On Feb. 27, 1988, the miracle tour made a stop in Columbia, where the Jayhawks won 82-77. The game featured a matchup of All-Americans, pitting Manning against Derrick Chievous, Missouri’s all-time leading scorer.
Chievous struggled with an illness that designated him as “questionable” before the game and made him a step slow against the Kansas defense after tip-off. Chievous finished with 20 points, 3.4 points below his season average, and Manning overshadowed him, scoring 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting.
Missouri’s big men had no answer for Manning inside.
“I’m at a low,” Chievous said after the game. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m at a loss for a lot of things.”
Ironically, Kansas coach Larry Brown had postseason possibilities on his mind after the victory.
“I just hope we’ve beaten enough teams (for the NCAA) to take that into consideration,” he said.
They had. Kansas went on to secure its second national championship a month later, and the Tigers lost to Rhode Island in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not giving up,” Chievous said after the Kansas loss. “I feel this is happening for a reason.”
Maybe it was. Less than a week after the loss, the Tigers earned one of their biggest wins, a 93-90 overtime triumph against No. 4 Oklahoma on March 3.
Chievous dominated the Sooners, scoring a game-high 35 points in the upset, his last game at Hearnes Center. Although Chievous missed a shot that would have won the game at the end of regulation, he scored four points in overtime to key the victory.
Missouri coach Norm Stewart had some kind words for Chievous after the game.
“He’s had so many good ones for us,” Stewart said. “He was pretty good, very good, outstanding.”