Mizzou’s storybook season comes to a shocking end in NCAA tournament

No. 2 Missouri Tigers stunned by No. 15 seed Norfolk State

By Kaveh Kaghazi

No. 15 seed Norfolk State celebrates its shocking upset victory against No. 2 seed Missouri after the game. The Spartans face Florida on Sunday for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.


The clock hit zero. The ball had already left Phil Pressey’s hands when the entire crowd took a collective gasp.

There were two possible scenarios:

One: The ball miraculously finds its way through the hoop. The No. 2 seed Missouri Tigers survive the scare, chalk it up as a learning experience and move on to the third round of the NCAA tournament, where they are once again favored to win.

Two: Pressey’s 20-foot off-balance running heave from the corner doesn’t fall through the nylon net and for only the fifth time in 110 attempts, a No. 15 seed knocks off a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

With his team down by two with 2.9 seconds, Missouri coach Frank Haith brought Phil’s brother, Matt Pressey, off the bench to inbound the ball. Matt Pressey inbounded the ball to his brother and watched Phil Pressey dribble down the sideline with breakneck acceleration, get bumped by a Norfolk State defender in the midst of trying to keep his footing before throwing up a 3-point prayer.

The collective gasp inside CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., turned into a deafening roar.

Pressey’s shot rattled off the rim and into the hands of Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn. The Spartans had their biggest win in school history — a 86-84 victory in a NCAA tournament game for the ages.

Phil Pressey fell to the floor and clutched his hands over his head before O’Quinn ran to pick him up.

Norfolk State center Kyle O'Quinn consoles Phil Pressey after the Spartans 86-84 upset victory Friday. Pressey missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The disappointing, gut wrenching defeat suffered by the Tigers will leave expectations unfulfilled and questions unanswered. Exactly how far could this Missouri team have gone if Pressey’s shot goes in? Instead, Norfolk State will advance to the third round for a date with Florida on Sunday.

O’Quinn used his 6-foot 10-inch frame to overpower Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore on his way to pummeling the Missouri defense with 26 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks. Norfolk State out rebounded Missouri 37-25, including 14 on the offensive end. O’Quinn’s offensive rebound off a Chris McEachin air ball with 34 seconds to go resulted in a 3-point play, putting the Spartans up 84-81 and on top for good.

“They killed us on the glass,” Missouri guard Marcus Denmon said.

McEachin and guard Pendarvis Williams combined for 40 points and eight 3-pointers Friday afternoon. The Spartans made 10 of 19 shots from downtown and combined on more than 61 percent of their shots in the second half.

The lead changed hands 14 times in the final 20 minutes, each team going blow-for-blow with each other. Norfolk State countered every Missouri shot or momentum shift with crucial execution down the stretch of the game.

“I just feel like they made the right plays at the right time,” Phil Pressey said. “And we didn’t make the right plays at the right time…that pretty much decided the game.”

Denmon scored 20 points in his final game as a Tiger. Fellow senior Kim English was held to just two points on 1-for-7 shooting. Michael Dixon led the Tigers with 22 points in the losing effort.

The sting will inevitably sit with Denmon, English, Matt Pressey, Moore and Ratliffe — part of the winningest senior class in school history. After a 30-4 season, a Big 12 tournament title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Haith said he will look back on this season and be proud of the team’s success.

“I hurt for those seniors,” Haith said. “They put so much into this and they had high expectations as we come into this season but let’s understand one thing—they’ve had a hell of a year.”

No. 15 seeds who have beaten No. 2 seeds:

1991 – No. 15 Richmond 73, No. 2 Syracuse 69
1993 – No. 15 Santa Clara 64, No. 2 Arizona 61
1997 – No. 15 Coppin State 78, No. 2 South Carolina 65
2001 – No. 15 Hampton 58, No. 2 Iowa State 57
2012 – No. 15 Norfolk State 86, No. 2 Missouri 84;  No. 15 Lehigh 75, No. 2 Duke 70

The NCAA tournament expanded to 16 seeds per region in 1985. No 16-seed has defeated a No. 1 seed.

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One response to “Mizzou’s storybook season comes to a shocking end in NCAA tournament

  1. Pingback: KC SportsNation » Norfolk State continues the “Missouri fan curse” in biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history (links) » KC SportsNation

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