McKernan: Missouri takes out Memphis, WOW! - KMOV.com

McKernan: Missouri takes out Memphis, WOW!

(KMOV) -- Wow.

That's really all I've got. It's 3:17 a.m. St. Louis time, and I'm just returning from the Missouri team hotel where hundreds of Tiger fans welcomed their team back following what was the biggest win in the school's history.

No Missouri team had ever won 30 games...until this year's Tigers.

No Missouri team had ever beaten a seed better than a #4 in the NCAA Tournament...until this year's Tigers.

And, no Missouri team has ever been to a Final Four...

...and we'll see if we can complete that sentence in a euphoric way Saturday evening.

I know this now: no team in college basketball had scored more than one hundred points on Memphis in nine years...until this year's Tigers. And, it all started with one of the most fun and (odd adjective here) beautiful halves of basketball you can watch.

I've been watching Missouri basketball for 25 years, and I don't recall the team playing a more perfect half than they did Thursday night against Memphis in the first 20 minutes.

The defense, the offense, and the overall intensity overwhelmed Memphis, and by the time the other Tigers could figure out that they weren't assured of the perceived automatic match-up with UConn, they were down 24 points.

Keep in mind, this is a Memphis team that was allowing opponents an average of just 57 points per game. Missouri had 49...at the half.

"I think we just attacked them, especially on defense. And that translated to offense. I think J.T. Tiller keyed all of that. He had a phenomenal first half," Mike Anderson said when I caught up with him at the team hotel following last night's win.

Tiller, known much more for his defense than his offense after averaging 8 points per game this year, scored 15 points in the first twenty minutes, and went on to go for 23 points in shooting 10 of 16 from the field.

When J.T. Tiller is scoring 23 points and when all five of the starters score in double figures, you have a feeling things are going right. And, when Marcus Denmon hits a 70-foot shot to close out that near-perfect first half, you know things are going right.

But, as it is with being a Missouri fan, for whatever reason...maybe it's the Fifth Down, maybe it's Tyus Edney, or maybe it's Shevin Wiggins kicking a ball to Matt Davison...you feel like doom is right around the corner, even when the good Tigers had a 24 point lead on the bad Tigers.

And...

...sure enough.

Memphis went on an 11-0 run as Missouri went from the 2009 Tigers to the 2006 Tigers in a matter of seconds. They couldn't do anything right. And, Memphis couldn't do anything wrong. The fear set in around the state...and it was growing on the bench as well.

"I'll be honest. I got a little worried," Matt Lawrence said.

But, much like five days ago against Marquette, the Tigers responded when their monster lead was cut. And as opposed to past Tiger teams that wound up wilting to eventual National Champions in the final seconds (see 1990 Colorado football, 1995 UCLA basketball, and 1997 Nebraska football), this Missouri team stood up and wouldn't let Memphis take what they believed was theirs and what they believe they've earned: a shot at the school's first ever Final Four.

Seriously...how much better does it get than what's in store for Missouri basketball fans Saturday? Everything on the line. Against the #1 seed. Showdown with a storied program like UConn. Facing a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Calhoun. All with a shot at the Final Four.

It's cliche.

It's a copout.

But, it's exactly how I feel...and how I've felt for about seven hours now:

Wow.

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