I've been hesitant to recap games for the 800 GP this season because Missouri State basketball is very personal to me. I wasn't sure I wanted to share my experiences with the internet. I'm also hopelessly biased toward my school. But that personal experience and that hopeless bias is part of what the 800 GP is about. So here's my contribution to the quest for 800 games:
Missouri State and Creighton's previous meeting in the 2011-2012 Valley season was Missouri State's 12-point upset of the no. 24 ranked Bluejays in Omaha. Creighton wanted revenge and the Bears wanted to prove that after some recent struggles they were still Valley contenders. It was also the first game after Christmas break and the students would be back in full-force.
As a part of Maroon Madness, MSU's student spirit organization, my gameday started at 5 pm with student ticket handout for a 7:05 tip-off. This would also be the first game that Maroon Madness would introduce our new pre-game cheers with our entire student section. Earlier in the week, a link to a video of several Creighton players singing Usher's "U Remind Me" in the locker room had been circulating among the MSU Twitter community. Maroon Madness printed off the chorus to the song and planned to use it as a free throw distraction.
I was also looking forward to seeing the match-up between Creighton's Doug McDermott (who was later named MVC Player of the Year) and MSU's Kyle Weems, the reigning POY. The Weems/McDermott match up often featured lots of chatter and very physical defense. That matchup did not disappoint. Weems and teammates Nathan Scheer and Keith Pickens held McDermott to only 15 points (season average: 22 ppg).
For me, the highlight of the game came during a Gregory Echenique free throw when Maroon Madness sang the chorus of "U Remind Me" as a distraction. Unfortunately, Echenique made the free throw. But our student section definitely suprised the Creighton players.
The game featured several lead changes and the Bears eventually lost by one point. It was another heartbreaker. With one minute left I convinced myself that I wouldn't be upset if the Bears lost. I wouldn't be. But as the Bears final shot bounced off the rim I found myself on my knees. I just couldn't detach myself from my team.
The Bears' season ended up a lot like that game vs. Creighton. They came close but just couldn't pull it off. Even as it became clear that the Bears wouldn't be a top Valley team I couldn't stop getting emotionally involved during the games. And when the conference tournament came around I couldn't squash that little bit of hope that maybe we'd turn it around and pull off a miracle run to the championship game. I couldn't help but hope it wouldn't end in a loss.