Game #9-261: Bucknell Bison at Missouri TigersJanuary 5, 2013 4:00 pm
If there's one thing Missourians hate more than the stigma of leading the nation in meth labs per square mile, it's the Kansas Jayhawks. And if there's one thing Missourians love more than arguing among themselves about whether St. Louis or Kansas City is better, it's seeing the Kansas Jayhawks lose to a 14 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
The next time you visit Missouri, say the word "Bucknell." We'll greet you with a hearty laugh and a fond smile. Give us a moment before we respond to you. It's too precious, even though the Norfolk State mishap eliminates most of the bragging rights. You must allow us a few seconds to reminisce about McNaughton's game-winning hook shot, the cutaways of a stunned Bill Self and, finally, that unforgettable final score from March of 2005:
Bucknell 64, Kansas 63.
So when the Bison appeared on Missouri's 2012-13 schedule, nobody took them lightly. Even the most casual, uneducated fans understood that Bucknell had once beaten Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. The slightly more educated fans knew Bucknell had a pretty good squad this year and would pose a more difficult test to the Tigers than their normal, run-of-the-mill guarantee opponents. The very educated fans knew Bucknell was 13-2, had an NBA
prospect at center in Mike Muscala and, despite head-scratching losses to Penn State and Princeton, would likely finish anywhere from fourth to sixth in the SEC.
All week, I heard nothing but kind words for Bucknell. I heard no disparaging talk about the Patriot League, but I did feel an underlying, condescending tone to all this. Perhaps it was in my head, but I felt as though some people were sweet-talking the Bison like they were some cute little team deserving of our pity.
Little Bucknell. They're pretty good, you know? They've got a pretty nice big guy, you know? I hear he can play a little bit.
That's where I had a problem. Were this Tennessee, or perhaps another good-but-not-elite team in the SEC, Missouri fans would treat the matchup as a big game. A showdown with a good team. Instead, it felt like everybody was just trying to survive Bucknell this weekend. As if to say, "Bucknell could pull the upset, but as long as the universe is still intact, there's no reason a team from the Patriot League should ever win on the road against a ranked opponent.
I ranted to my friends in the car before the game about how I hated that conferences dictated our mentalities as fans. I began to spout off my socialist, Mid-Majority values about how there are good Patriot League teams, bad Patriot League teams, good Big 12 teams, bad Big 12 teams, good SEC teams, bad SEC teams, and on and on, with the basic premise that conference affiliation has no bearing on the caliber of a team. After about 30 seconds, they got the point. Whether they believed me or not, they conceded that Bucknell was as worthy an opponent as, say, Tennessee.
I was not rooting for Bucknell. I go to Mizzou, I have grown up a Tiger and I will always be a Tiger. But I appreciate all basketball, both above and below the Red Line, and I appreciated this game.
In fact, it was one of the better games I've seen all season in person. A few days after watching Nate Wolters play in Kansas City, I came away with a similar feeling after watching Muscala.
As good as advertised. He dominated MU's physical frontline for 40 minutes, drawing the Tigers' bigs away from the basket and displaying his soft shooting touch.
Bucknell controlled the tempo of the game, and Missouri responded by chucking brick after brick at the rim. The Bison couldn't rebound with the Tigers, but like every road team must do, they knocked down open shots from outside in the second half and continued to puzzle Missouri on the defensive end.
Back and forth they went, all through the second half. I was captivated.
Not everybody was.
With about four minutes left in the second half, we spotted a mother-son combo in the second row of Mizzou Arena. The mother seemed like a rabid Missouri fan, cheering, screaming and clapping at every opportunity.
The son looked like this:
I concocted the theory that this was either God, Jesus himself, or possibly a Christ figure attempting to imitate his hairstyle, reading the Bible and praying for Missouri to defeat Bucknell. My friends pointed out that the book looked nothing like the Bible, but I stuck with my hypothesis. Maybe his mom scored some free tickets and drug her non-sports fan son to the game, but I refuse to believe that.
This Christ figure was sacrificing himself for Missouri. He kept scouring the pages with his headphones in and head sunk down. Phil Pressey then made a three-pointer.
Missouri took the lead again. The Christ Figure kept reading.
Muscala with the and-one. Chance to tie the game. Christ Figure still reading.
Muscala misses. Christ Figure reading. Later, Pressey misses a free throw, giving Bucknell the ball down by a point with 10 seconds left. Christ Figure cheering. Just kidding. He was reading.
Mike Muscala stepped on the baseline with 4 seconds left in the game, essentially sealing the win for the Tigers. The Christ Figure's work was done.
Just like that, Missouri "escaped" against Bucknell, although if it were an SEC opponent, everybody would talk as though the Tigers "battled through adversity." However you want to describe the game, the main thing to remember is that Missouri avoided having to retire all Bucknell/Kansas jokes for eternity.
, "Bucknell" remains a perfectly acceptable word in the state of Missouri.
at MISSOURI 66, BUCKNELL 64
BUCKNELL 13-3 (0-0) -- B. Johnson 4-12 0-0 11; C. Ayers 5-11 0-0 13; J. Willman 4-11 0-0 8; M. Muscala 10-17 5-9 25; R. Hill 1-1 0-2 2; R. Frazier 1-4 0-0 3; S. Kaspar 0-2 0-0 0; B. Fitzpatrick 1-4 0-0 2; J. Singleton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 5-11 64.
MISSOURI 11-2 (0-0) -- P. Pressey 10-22 3-5 26; J. Brown 1-9 0-0 3; L. Bowers 8-14 0-0 16; A. Oriakhi 4-6 1-1 9; E. Ross 1-9 3-6 5; K. Bell 1-1 0-0 2; S. Jankovic 2-2 0-0 5; N. Webster-Chan 0-0 0-0 0; R. Rosburg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 7-12 66.
Three-point goals: BUCK 7-16 (B. Johnson 3-7; C. Ayers 3-8; R. Frazier 1-1), MIZZ 5-13 (E. Ross 0-2; P. Pressey 3-6; J. Brown 1-4; S. Jankovic 1-1); Rebounds: BUCK 35 (M. Muscula 14), MIZZ 38 (L. Bowers 8); Assists: BUCK 14 (M. Muscula 4), MIZZ 8 (P. Pressey 5); Total Fouls -- BUCK 15, MIZZ 12; Fouled Out: BUCK-None; MIZZ-None.
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