West Regional | Edge: Missouri-Memphis
BOISE, Idaho -- For four unbelievable minutes early, Kim English turned the basketball court in Boise into his own private Idaho.
During two excruciating free throws late, it was his personal little pressure cooker.
The Missouri freshman was brilliant through all of it -- and never more clutch than when he came off the bench to "pinch shoot" for the injured J.T. Tiller with 5.5 seconds left Sunday.
English made both free throws to give the Tigers the go-ahead points in an 83-79 victory over Marquette.
Yes, folks, this is how stars are born in the NCAA tournament.
"He was sitting there auditioning for it," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "Kim, he just gave me that look, and sometimes you just have that feeling and he went up and shot the ball well."
Did anyone expect different?
He had what can only be described as an out-of-body experience during a 4½-minute shooting spree in the first half. He made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points during that stretch to help third-seeded Mizzou (30-6) turn a six-point deficit into a 16-point lead.
Still, English was on the bench for most of the second half, watching sixth-seeded Marquette chip away at the lead and eventually go ahead.
But when Tiller fell hard and hurt his right wrist after being fouled with the score tied at 79, Anderson took advantage of the college rule that allows teams to substitute for an injured free-throw shooter.
He chose English, who made both.
"He just said, `Kimmie,' and I knew what that meant," English said. "I'm so happy that he had faith in me to get up there and knock them down. I think anybody on the bench would've knocked them down, actually."
After the English free throws, Marquette's Lazar Hayward turned it over by stepping over the baseline on the ensuing inbounds pass, and the Golden Eagles (25-10) were forced to foul. Leo Lyons made two more free throws to ice the game and Missouri moved onto the West Regional semifinals to play Memphis, next Thursday in Glendale, Ariz..
It ruined a wonderful effort from Marquette senior Jerel McNeal, who matched his career high with 30 points, and Wesley Matthews, who scored 24.
It also brought lusty boos from the Marquette fans and others in the crowd, especially when they saw Tiller re-enter the game a second later to help the Tigers run out the clock. For the record, Tiller has been dealing with the wrist problem all season. And the rules say he can re-enter the game after the next whistle.
"It's one of the technicalities of the game," McNeal said. "If you're somewhat hurt, faking hurt or whatever it is, you can lay on the ground and the trainer can come out and basically, you get a sub for them. It's happened to me before and I've seen it done before so it wasn't a big surprise to me."
On paper, though, it wasn't that great a move.
Coming into the game, Tiller was a 76 percent free-throw shooter while English, icing on the bench for most of the second half, shot only 68 percent.
The game, of course, isn't decided on paper.
"I knew, right when I looked at him, if coach chose him he was going to knock 'em down," teammate Matt Lawrence said. "I've never seen a freshman with so much confidence."
English was even more impressive in the first half.
During a stretch of 4½ extremely well-spent minutes, he came one point short of his career high. He went 6-for-8 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, added a rebound.
Then he came back for 1 second -- literally -- and won the game. He finished with 17 points.
He rewrote the book on Boise for Missouri fans, who had nothing but bad memories up here. Remember UCLA guard Tyus Edney's famous full-court dash and buzzer-beating layup -- the one that sparked the Bruins to the 1995 championship? That came against Missouri. Here in Idaho.
"I guess it's a new day," English said.
Missouri's usual stars weren't bad, either.
DeMarre Carroll finished with 15 points, Lawrence had 16 and Lyons led the Tigers with 18, including a nifty spin under the basket for a three-point play that gave Missouri a 79-78 lead with 48.7 seconds left after it had trailed by four.
McNeal came back to make one of two free throws to tie the game and set up the wacky finish.
Nearly lost in the commotion was the return of Marquette's Dominic James, who made an unexpected comeback less than a month after a broken foot was supposed to have shut down his season. Largely considered Marquette's best player, he got plenty of playing time but didn't make a difference.
He played 17 minutes but didn't take a shot and wasn't on the floor at the end.
"Above all else, I wanted him to finish his career in a uniform," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "Regardless of the result, I wanted him to have closure in regards to his basketball career at Marquette."
Not a great way to end it, though, and the game must have brought flashbacks for Marquette, which trailed by 17 to Villanova in the second round of the Big East tournament, came all the way back but ended up losing by one.
As for Missouri -- well, it must be good to know it has another reliable player to depend on now that it's one of the final 16.
"We knew that he was one of the best shooters on the floor," James said. "Obviously, we didn't want to give him any looks. But he got it going early. It gave him a little more confidence."
This one figures to sit hard back in Milwaukee for a while.
Not everyone was convinced Hayward stepped over the line on the inbounds pass.
There was also some confusion at the end, when the refs had to go to the replay to see if the clock had run out when the ball went out after Marquette's final desperation heave.
Tiller's quick return to the game also brought boos, though that was within the rules.
"I don't know," Matthews said when asked about the crazy finish. "I don't think I had any thoughts. I was just kind of replaying in my head, I guess, how we got to that point."
A horror show for him.
Something much different for Missouri's new star.