NCAA Tournament: West Regional – Missouri passes its English test
Published 12:00 am Monday, March 23, 2009
BOISE, Idaho ó Four unbelievable minutes. Two gargantuan free throws.
Freshman Kim English came off the bench to “pinch shoot” for the hurting J.T. Tiller and made two free throws with 5.5 seconds left Sunday to give Missouri the go-ahead points in an 83-79 victory over Marquette in the NCAA tournament.
It was quite an encore for English, who had an out-of-body 41/2-minute shooting spree in the first half, scoring 15 points and helping third-seeded Mizzou (30-6) turn a six-point deficit into a 16-point lead.
English was on the bench for most of the second half, watching sixth-seeded Marquette chip away at the lead and eventually go ahead. But when Tiller fell hard after being fouled with the score tied at 79, coach Mike Anderson took advantage of the college rule that allows teams to substitute for an injured free-throw shooter.
He chose English, who made both.
“I’m so happy that he had faith in me to get up there and knock them down,” English said. “I think anybody on the bench would’ve knocked them down, actually.”
After the English free throws, Marquette’s Lazar Hayward stepped over the baseline on the ensuing inbounds pass, and the Golden Eagles (25-10) were forced to foul. Leo Lyons made two more free throws to ice the game and Missouri moved onto the West Regional semifinals to play Memphis.
It ruined a wonderful effort from Marquette senior Jerel McNeal, who matched his career high with 30 points, and Wesley Matthews, who scored 24.
It also brought lusty boos from the Marquette fans and others in the crowd, especially when they saw Tiller re-enter the game a second later to help the Tigers run out the clock.
What they may not have known is that Tiller was a 76 percent free-throw shooter coming into the tournament while English, icing on the bench for most of the second half, shot only 65 percent.
“I knew, right when I looked at him, if coach chose him he was going to knock ’em down,” teammate Matt Lawrence said. “I’ve never seen a freshman with so much confidence.”
He was equally impressive in the first half. During six extremely well-spent minutes, English came one point short of his career high. He went 6-for-8 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, added a rebound.
Then he came back for 1 second ó literally ó and won the game.
He turned Boise ó just maybe ó into his own private Idaho and erased a terrible memory of this place for Missouri fans. Remember UCLA guard Tyus Edney’s famous full-court dash and buzzer-beating layup ó the one that sparked the Bruins to the 1995 championship? That came against Missouri. Here in Boise.