Upsets, buzzer beaters, wins against Kansas and incredible individual performances define the greatest of the 382 Missouri women’s basketball games played at Hearnes Center.
The most memorable of these games, though, is most remembered not for the action during the game but for the postgame brawl.
The Tigers’ fight against Oklahoma on Jan. 17, 1987, marred an otherwise great game between the Big Eight Conference leaders.
Missouri led the Sooners 70-67 with 24 seconds left in an unusually physical game when Margaret McKeon fouled Missouri’s Lisa Ellis.
With emotions running high, Ellis responded by throwing the ball at McKeon’s face, which earned her a technical foul.
Ellis’ outburst allowed Oklahoma to cut the Tigers’ lead to one with a Lisa Allison free throw. LaTrenda Williams followed with a jumper to tie the game at 70 with 10 seconds left.
Missouri’s Renee Kelly made an 18-footer with four seconds left to cap a 29-point performance and lift the Tigers to a 72-70 win, but if Missouri fans watched the final seconds near the exits, they probably missed the most exciting action.
As the teams left the court, Oklahoma coach Maura McHugh approached Ellis with some unflattering comments. When Ellis attempted to push McHugh away, Allison grabbed Ellis by the neck and threw her to the floor.
“That fight was something I will never forget,” Kelly said. “The benches were cleared and there were black eyes and bruised ribs and the story even made Sports Illustrated. It was just a mess.”
After the game McHugh, who spent much of the fight at the bottom of the pile, and Missouri coach Joann Rutherford seemed to disagree on the magnitude of the fight.
McHugh said the game marked “just another night” while Rutherford, who tried to break up the fight, expressed shock at McHugh’s behavior.
“I guess my thing is trying to shake the opponent’s hand,” Rutherford said. “This time she was on the floor.”
Aside from the Oklahoma brawl, it should come as no surprise that several of Missouri’s greatest games at Hearnes Center came against archrival Kansas.
When No. 6 Kansas came to Hearnes Center on Feb. 6, 1994, the Tigers were trying to avoid their fourth straight loss to the Jayhawks.
Kansas had the ball trailing 76-75 with 20 seconds left, but Tameka Davis traveled. The Jayhawks quickly fouled Missouri’s Amy Fordham, who made two clutch free throws with 10.7 seconds left to give Missouri a three-point lead.
Charisse Sampson missed a 3-pointer with time winding down for Kansas and Jennifer Trapp’s rebound and putback at the buzzer was not enough for the Jayhawks, who lost 78-77.
On Feb. 10, 2001, the largest crowd to see a women’s basketball game at Hearnes Center got its money’s worth when the Tigers overcame a nine-point second-half deficit against Kansas to send the game to overtime.
A crowd of 10,126 saw Missouri use a 6-0 run in the final 1:40 of regulation to tie the game at 78. In overtime, Marlena Williams scored six points and Tracy Franklin made three free throws in the final 27 seconds to cap a career high 24-point performance.
Kerensa Barr, who scored a career-high 13 that day, said the game is one of her favorite memories at Hearnes Center.
“It was an overtime game in front of our biggest crowd ever,” Barr said. “It was a fun game to be a part of.”
The best postseason women’s basketball game at Hearnes Center came March 12, 1986, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri, a No. 9 seed, hoped to avoid its third straight first-round losd when it faced the No. 8 seed Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Tigers led by 12 midway through the second half, but Arkansas battled back after Kelly went to the bench with four fouls with 9:23 left.
When Kelly returned with 6:30 left, she scored only two of her game-high 25, but her presence was enough to lift the Tigers.
Although Arkansas forced three Missouri turnovers in the final minute, the Tigers escaped with a 66-65 win after Arkansas’ Debra Williams missed a shot at the buzzer. Missouri lost in the second round at Texas 108-67 two days later.
The most thrilling of Missouri’s 102 losses at Hearnes Center occurred Feb. 22 when the Tigers lost to No. 8 Kansas State 93-90 in double overtime.
Missouri had a 15-point lead with 11:49 left in regulation, but Kansas State used a 17-0 run to regain the lead with 4:49 left.
Evan Unrau made a layup with three seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 67. She led Missouri with 12 points in the overtimes but Kansas State’s 8-0 run to start the second overtime was too much for the Tigers.
Unrau finished with a career-high 40 points and 15 rebounds in one of the greatest individual performances at Hearnes Center. Her effort drew the praise of Kansas State coach Deb Patterson.
“(Unrau) literally did everything you could ask a player to do in a basketball game.” Patterson said.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better overall performance than the one she put on today.”