Since the first jump ball Nov. 25, 1972, until today, Missouri has played 475 home games at Hearnes Center.
The magic and atmosphere surrounding Hearnes Center will be experienced one more time today as Missouri takes on Kansas in the building’s finale. Many memories will remain from the building’s history, but 10 moments highlight Missouri’s home.
As the shot flew toward the basket, it looked on target.
Considering Eric Piatkowski, one of Nebraska’s greatest long-range shooters, had attempted the final shot, little reason to believe otherwise existed. When the ball neared the basket, it appeared Missouri’s perfect record in the Big Eight Conference would go down with it.
The shot started down the basket, but miraculously, the ball popped out as the Hearnes Center buzzer sounded March 5, 1994. The Tigers had an 80-78 win against Nebraska, but more important, they finished 14-0 in the conference.
Piatkowski’s miss and the Tigers’ subsequent undefeated season is the No. 1 moment in Hearnes Center history.
“That shot went so far down into the basket that no matter where you were, you could have in the upper level of D section, behind the basket, you would have sworn the shot was good,” Missouri broadcaster Mike Kelly said. “It did everything but go in. There’s no question the basketball gods were smiling on the Tigers that day.
“It just solidified these guys as a very special team in Missouri history. If they don’t go unbeaten, they’re remembered as just one of those everyday Big Eight Champions.”
The Tigers also went undefeated in 15 home games in 1993-94.
Piatkowski, who ranks second among Nebraska's scoring leaders with 1,934 points, had 26 points when he attempted his desperation 24-foot jumper.
“From where I was sitting on the bench, it looked like a good shot,” MU’s Mark Atkins said after the game. “And when it went in, I said, ‘Oh, no,’ and then it came back out.”
Piatkowski finished 3-of-7 from 3-point range, but because Piatkowski’s final 3-pointer rimmed out, the Tigers became the third Big Eight team to finish 14-0.
Kansas went undefeated in 1971, and Kansas State did it in 1959. The Jayhawks also went undefeated in 2002, but that was after the creation of the Big 12 Conference.
“They weren’t picked high,” former Missouri coach Norm Stewart said after the game. “Nobody, I think thought they could win the Big Eight Championship, let alone go undefeated. And they did it. That is a special team right there.”
The Big Eight title was Stewart’s final championship.
Although it pales in comparison in terms of suspense and drama to the end of the Big Eight season in 1994, the Tigers’ title in 1976 carries almost as much significance.
The Tigers’ 95-60 win against Colorado on March 6, 1976, ended a 36-year drought between conference titles.
“We knew we were going to win the Big Eight title,” former MU guard Willie Smith said. “That was something that had eluded the University of Missouri for years and years. It kind of gave us some respectability as far as the Big Eight because Kansas and K-State were always the perennial winners. We kind of broke that yoke.”
Smith led a group of quiet, workmanlike players that lost once in 13 home games in 1975-76. Smith had 23 points against the Buffaloes.
The Tigers put the game away early with a 24-7 run during 10 minutes in the first half and led 55-26 at halftime.
“This is just really satisfying,” Stewart said at the time. “You know, in the past we had clubs that should have won, but for some reason or other, they fell short. Now we’ve done it. It’s great.”
The title marked the first time in 46 years the Tigers had won the conference title outright. They shared conference titles in 1939 and 1940. This was Stewart’s first conference title as coach.
After the first title, Stewart coached the Tigers to seven more conference titles before Feb. 24, 1999, when Stewart coached his last game at Hearnes Center. The Tigers defeated Iowa State 75-64, thanks to a strong effort from senior center Monte Hardge.
Stewart’s accomplishments were then recognized Jan 29, 2001, at halftime of the Tigers’ game against Kansas. Stewart’s No. 22 jersey was raised to the rafters and the court was dedicated with his name in front of the team’s benches.
During the ceremony, Stewart addressed the fans.
“It’s a wonderful honor and a wonderful tribute, but you get the name on there and it represents all those players for all those years,” Stewart said. “And it keeps them in touch with the university, and that’s really what it’s all about. ”
In his 32 years as the Tigers’ coach, he compiled a 634-333 record and won eight Big Eight titles. He played for the Tigers from 1954-56 and averaged 17.7 points.
“It was something I think was a fitting tribute to the guy, we all tend to forget, got Missouri on the map,” Kelly said. “For so many years when the football program was absolutely awful, had it not been for the success of our basketball, under Coach Stewart, people wouldn’t even know what Missouri is. That was a very fitting tribute for him.”
After the emotional ceremony, the Tigers rallied for a 75-66 win against the Jayhawks.
When the Tigers defeated Iowa State on March 5, 1983, at Hearnes Center, it capped an impressive run of seasons, for the Tigers closed out their fourth straight Big Eight title.
Senior guard Jon Sundvold and senior center Steve Stipanovich played key roles in the titles.
Stipanovich, who averaged 18.4 points as a senior, is fourth on Missouri’s scoring list with 1,836 points. Sundvold ranks 10th with 1,597 points.
“That’s something that Coach Stewart really stressed, winning your conference first and the tournament was basically something extra,'” former MU guard Mark Dressler said. “He still thought the tournament was important, but he thought the conference was first.”
Dressler was another senior on the 1983 team.
The win had added significance because it was Stewart’s 300th victory as coach.
“When you’re still in the season, it’s hard to get a perspective on it,” Stewart said at the time. “But at the same time, you realize that it’s taken a lot of good basketball players and people to help you along the way. It makes it easier to reminisce after the season.”
The 1996-97 season turned out to be a subpar season according to Stewart’s standards, but it included the fifth-ranked Hearnes Center moment.
Kansas came to Hearnes Center on Feb. 4, 1997, undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country. Corey Tate, though, ended the Jayhawks’ undefeated hopes with one shot.
Tate scooped up a loose ball then hit a 16-foot jumper with 5.6 second left to give the Tigers a 96-94 double-overtime win.
“It was just right place, right time, Corey Tate right at the free-throw line,” Kelly said. “That was probably a play that defined his career. He’ll always be remembered as the kid that beat Kansas when they were ranked No. 1 in the country.”
With the game tied at 94, Ty Lee started a drive but lost the ball when he got near the basket. After a short scrum, it rolled through KU’s Jacque Vaughn’s hands to Tate’s feet, which allowed him to grab it and score.
Tate’s dramatic shot in 1997 to beat Kansas was the second of three against highly ranked Jayhawk teams at Hearnes Center.
On Jan. 19, 1998, the Tigers made it three straight home wins against Kansas teams ranked in the top three. Lee made two free throws with 11.4 seconds left to give the Tigers a 74-73 win.
“I think (Hearnes Center) is the ultimate over the last three years,” Kansas coach Roy Williams said after the game. “We’ve been pretty good for the last few years, and we haven’t won three years in a row.”
On Feb. 10, 1996, the Tigers hosted a third-ranked Jayhawk team, and the Tigers held on for a 77-73 win.
Hearnes Center had a fortuitous beginning Nov. 25, 1972, when the Tigers opened the building with a 87-75 win.
At 8:08 p.m., John Brown scored the first basket. Since then, the Tigers are 403-71 at Hearnes Center. Since then, the Tigers have defeated Colorado the most times at home, for they have won 32-of-34 matchups.
Gary Link, the color commentator on the Tiger Radio Network, scored 15 off the bench.
After missing the final 14 games of the previous season, Stewart returned to the bench Dec. 2, 1989. He won his first game back in Hearnes Center, defeating Tennessee-Martin 78-58.
On the Tigers’ trip to Norman, Okla., on Feb. 9, 1989, Stewart became ill and was admitted to an Oklahoma City hospital for an ulcer disease complicated with internal bleeding. On Feb. 14, 1989, doctors removed a cancerous tumor from his colon and a diseased gall bladder.
Stewart relinquished his coaching duties until the Tigers met Evansville on Nov. 24, 1989 in the Maui Classic.
Doug Smith had many great games as a Tiger, but few were as great as his performance Feb. 10, 1990, against Nebraska.
Smith, a forward from Detroit, set the record for points in a game at Hearnes Center with 44. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in the Tigers’ 107-85 win.
“Doug is probably the most mobile 6-foot-10 guy (the Big Eight) has ever seen,” Nebraska coach Danny Nee said after the game. “There’s just no one to compare him with.”
Smith, who was the third Big Eight player to get more than 2,000 points and more than 1,000 rebounds, made 19-of-26 field goals and 6-of-6 foul shots.
Missouri’s next era began in Hearnes Center when Quin Snyder coached his first game Nov. 19, 1999.
Even though Snyder began his coaching career with a loss, he had a better opening to his home career. The Tigers defeated UNC-Asheville 75-69.
Athletic Director Mike Alden introduced Snyder as the Tigers’ 15th coach April 7, 1999.
In his coaching debut, Snyder lost to Wisconsin 66-55 on Nov. 12, 1999 in the NABC Classic in Syracuse, N.Y.