Earnest Ross Delivers In The Final Minute, Missouri Stuns Texas A&M

Story by Cody Mroczka
Photos by Michael Losch

Missouri senior guard Earnest Ross (33) tries to block the shot of a Texas A&M shooter. Ross scored seven points that included a pair of game-winning free throws.

Missouri senior guard Earnest Ross (33) tries to block the shot of a Texas A&M shooter. Ross scored seven points that included a pair of game-winning free throws.

COLUMBIA – For the first 38 minutes and 54 seconds, Missouri guard Earnest Ross was hardly noticeable. For the last 66 seconds, Ross was the only player that mattered.

With 1:06 remaining, Ross stepped to the free-throw line with the Missouri Tigers (21-9, 9-8 Southeastern Conference) trailing visiting Texas A&M (17-13, 8-9 SEC) by a score of 54-51 and NCAA Tournament hopes hanging on by a thread. Ross took over from that point, scoring the Tigers final seven points and delivering a much-needed victory.

Minutes before tipoff, Missouri coach Frank Haith and fans at Mizzou Arena paid tribute to Ross and fellow senior Tony Criswell by honoring the athletes with memorial plaques and a chance to thank their supporters.

It was a special Senior Night for Ross, who had the rare opportunity of playing in front of loved ones from out of town. An opportunity he was more excited for than nervous about.

However, the game didn’t go the way Ross or the Tigers had envisioned. Ten minutes into the first half the Tigers trailed the Aggies 15-10, after missing 12 of their first 16 shots from the field. The poor shooting continued for the entire half, as the Aggies locked down on defense and forced 10 turnovers.

Ross was 0 of 5 from the field, with a pair of rebounds and missed free throws, but he never lost focus. The 6-foot-5-inch guard played solid defense and provided the rest of the team with the toughness and leadership he had been hammering to reporters over the past couple of weeks. Haith stuck with him in the second half.

“He was struggling,” Haith said. “But he was five of six down the stretch from the free-throw line, he had a big steal, and a few big rebounds for us.”

All the action Haith is describing took place in a wild last minute of play. After Ross made his first free throw, he stole the ball from Texas A&M guard Alex Caruso and was fouled on his way to the rim. After two made free throws, the Tigers trailed 54-53 with 16 seconds remaining. Following a made basket by the Aggies, Haith called a timeout and drew up a play to get Ross a free run at the rim.

With 8 seconds remaining and down one, Ross pulled down a missed free throw and was fouled in the process. After making two more free throws to put the Tigers ahead, Ross tipped the Aggies inbound pass with less than 2 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

“I just wanted to win the game,” Ross said. “Whether I was hitting shots or not, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to win the game.”

Ross was quick to credit the youngest members of Missouri’s team for the win, a testament to his belief that every contribution, big or small, matters. Freshmen Jonathan Williams, Torren Jones and Wes Clark combined for 12 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Although the numbers don’t seem like much, each freshman provided a spark of energy when leading performers like Ross, Jabari Brown, and Jordan Clarkson struggled to find rhythm.

“Three freshmen are playing a lot of meaningful minutes,” Haith said. “I think that tells you a little bit about the future of Mizzou basketball.”

Overall, the Tigers shot just 34 percent from the field and had more turnovers (17) than made baskets (16), but it was the contribution of the entire team, especially the younger players, that led to the victory. Missouri remains on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but a couple more wins could get them off. The Tigers will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday to play the Volunteers for their SEC regular season finale.

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2 responses to “Earnest Ross Delivers In The Final Minute, Missouri Stuns Texas A&M

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