Tonight was going to be a different night for me in my personal TMM8 journey. Tonight, I was going to watch my alma mater, Missouri State, play for the first time this season. I'm not going to hide that I'm an avid Missouri State fan (it's in my Twitter handle for goodness sake - @MoStateDwight), and I knew this fact was going to make it harder to recap this game. It's easy to observe everything about the game, the arena, the people around you, and everything else about the personality of a basketball game when you have no dog in the fight. But when it's your team in the game and you're passionate about that team, you're focused in on one thing: the performance of your team.
Unfortunately, on this night the demands of my day job caused me to run a little bit late to the game. After speeding down Riverside Drive from downtown Tulsa to the Mabee Center in south Tulsa, my fiancée and I rushed in to the arena, me still dressed in my slacks and collared shirt from work, picked up our tickets, and quickly made our way to our seats. By the time we sat down, almost four minutes of the game had passed and Missouri State was holding on to a 6-5 lead, which was extended to 7-5 at the under-16 timeout.
Missouri State was coming off an emotional overtime win against Tulsa (#RLU) to remain undefeated on the season, while Oral Roberts was looking to extend their win streak to four games which included their own #RLU over SMU.
Coming out of the timeout, first-year Missouri State coach Paul Lusk decided to go primarily with second string players to give the starters a breather and ORU capitalized. Star forwards Steven Roundtree and Dominique Morrison helped ORU grab the lead as Missouri State struggled to get anything going offensively, spending most of their time passing around the perimeter.
Throughout the first half Missouri State looked sloppy on offense, lazy on defense, and uninspired on the boards. Missouri State just seemed emotionally drained from the overtime game four days earlier and just didn't seem to be playing with any passion. ORU on the other hand was playing with passion on both ends of the floor. They were attacking the basket on offense and crashing the boards on defense. ORU was relentless for the rest of the half and always seemed to have an answer whenever Missouri State made an attempt to grab momentum. I was sitting amongst many other Missouri State fans that had most likely made the short trip down I-44 from Springfield and I could feel the frustration from everyone around me (not to mention my own frustration) as Missouri State continued to struggle. One lady to my right was particularly vocal, letting out loud yells of "Take it the whole!" and "Are you serious?!" When the halftime buzzer sounded, ORU held a 36-22 lead.
When the second half started, it appeared Coach Lusk had given his team a passionate half time speech as they opened up with an 8-2 run that forced a quick time out by ORU coach Scott Sutton at the 17:30 mark. ORU seemed to settle down after the time out and for the next eight minutes the teams exchanged small runs. And by small, I mean both teams exchanged some sloppy play including one four minute stretch where the two teams scored a combined five points. However, at the under eight time out, ORU had rebuilt their lead to 13 points.
Coach Lusk's frustration with his team was obvious as he had now removed his sport coat and rolled up his sleeves. He was trying to inspire some passion in his team, but they just didn't seem to be responding. But coming out of the timeout, he had seemed to reach senior leader and Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Kyle Weems. Weems, who had been struggling throughout the season and was struggling in this game, seemed to find his grove both offensively and defensively. Over the next four minutes he scored seven points to help cut the lead to 57-50 at the under four timeout. However, Missouri State just couldn't seem to get out of their own way as turnovers, fouls, and poor shots helped ORU push the lead to ten at the 1:17 mark. It was at this point, for some reason (probably desperation), that Missouri State finally found their passion and made a frantic last minute run. On the heels of three #superhoops, Missouri State was able to cut the lead to three with 8 seconds left. But it was too little to late, as ORU was able to sink enough free throws in the end to hold off the Bears, 68-63.
When you watch your team play, your emotions rise and fall with the performance of your team. You pump your fists and cheer like crazy when your team makes great plays and you yell out in frustration or drop your face in to your hands when they make a mistake like it's the end of the world. It's kind of silly that we fans act like this for our teams but it's also the thing I love most about college basketball. I love the passion that fans have for their teams and I love the passion that players and coaches have for each other and the game they love. Passion is what makes this game so beautiful and painful at the same time.
On this night, the Missouri State Bears did not have that passion until it was too late.
at ORAL ROBERTS 68, MISSOURI STATE 63 11/30/2011
MISSOURI STATE 4-1 (0-0) -- C. Patterson 5-17 4-4 14; M. Bizoukas 2-3 2-6 7; K. Weems 9-17 0-0 22; K. Pickens 3-5 0-0 6; A. Downing 2-8 0-0 5; J. Gulley 1-4 0-0 3; N. Scheer 0-0 0-0 0; C. Kirk 2-2 0-0 4; C. Copeland 0-0 0-0 0; I. Rhine 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-57 6-10 63. ORAL ROBERTS 5-2 (0-0) -- D. Morrison 4-12 5-8 13; W. Niles 5-13 8-8 19; D. Bell-Holter 0-4 0-2 0; S. Roundtree 4-6 0-2 8; R. Pearson Jr. 4-7 0-0 11; M. Craion 3-7 4-4 10; M. Manghum 1-2 0-0 3; J. Lliteras 1-2 1-2 4. Totals 22-53 18-26 68.
Three-point goals: MOST 7-15 (C. Patterson 0-1; K. Weems 4-7; M. Bizoukas 1-1; A. Downing 1-3; J. Gulley 1-3), ORU 6-15 (R. Pearson 3-4; D. Morrison 0-1; W. Niles 1-6; D. Bell-Holter 0-1; M. Manghum 1-1; J. Lliteras 1-2); Rebounds: MOST 29 (K. Pickens 8), ORU 31 (S. Roundtree 12); Assists: MOST 14 (M. Bizoukas 5), ORU 13 (R. Pearson 3); Total Fouls -- MOST 22, ORU 12; Fouled Out: MOST-None; ORU-None.