March 22, 2009

English finishes what he started

BOISE, ID--In the first half Kim English did everything in his power to knock down the door to the Sweet 16. When his Missouri teammates failed to walk through it, English came off the bench to slam that same door on Marquette's season.

English hit six of his seven first-half shots on the way to 15 points in just six minutes. The freshman entered the game with just more than 12 minutes left in the first half and the Tigers trailing 17-11. He hit an off-balance jumper from 18 feet. Fellow freshman Marcus Denmon knocked down a three-pointer. And then English reeled off 13 straight points on three three-pointers, a jumper from the wing and a baseline layup. Missouri led 29-22 after an 18-5 run that English authored nearly by himself.

"I told you the other day can't nobody shake Kim English's confidence," Leo Lyons said. "And he had seen, he had that look in his eye that he had seen before. He had a nice release and it was going in for him and he didn't stop."

But the Tiger team struggled mightily to secure a win that at one point seemed in hand. Mizzou led by 11 at the break. But the Golden Eagles came all the way back, erasing the deficit completely on a Jimmy Butler layup to tie the game at 67. Eventually, the Eagles would lead 78-74. After five consecutive points by Mizzou, Jerel Mcneal hit a free throw for the last of his 30 points. The game was tied with 38 seconds to go.

Anderson called a timeout and J.T. Tiller held the ball until about ten seconds remained. He drove the left side around a screen from Lyons and was fouled hard on his way to the basket. While fans watched his shot trickle off the rim, Tiller laid on the ground in pain, with no feeling in a right wrist that has bothered him all season. In fact, he has been wearing a protective pad for almost the entire year.

With two free throws needing to be shot, Mike Anderson asked Tiller if he was hurt.

"I was trying to see if the feeling in my wrist was going to come back anytime," Tiller said. "I did want to take them. I'm going to win the game. I'm going to get a game-winner one of these days. Today was my day and I didn't get to do it."

At that point, Anderson turned to his bench. Seconds later, English strode toward the scorer's table and ripped off his warmups. To that point, he had played six minutes in the second half and missed all four of his shots. If this was a movie, English would have begged Anderson to take the shots. In fact, that is what most observers thought had happened. Not so.

"I was actually pulling for Marcus (Denmon to shoot them because he's the best percentage shooter on the team," English admitted. "I was telling him to get ready and warm."

Anderson had a different idea.

"Kim English, he just gave me that look, not only him, I thought Marcus was the same way," Anderson said. "And sometimes you just have that feeling. And he went up because he shot the ball well. I visited with our coaches and once they said it, I said, 'Okay, we'll put him in there.'"

English calmly made both free throws, his only two points of the second half. The Tigers then got a turnover when Lazar Hayward stepped over the baseline before inbounding the ball. Lyons made two free throws of his own and Missouri was headed to the Sweet Sixteen.

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