Here’s a discussion starter: What’s the more improbable moment of Marcus Denmon’s career, his 60-foot buzzer-beater in the 2009 Sweet Sixteen against Memphis, or his steal and layup with time running out in overtime Wednesday night against Vanderbilt that ultimately gave Mizzou an 85-82 win?
The “wow-on-wow” shot against Memphis was the icing on the cake for Mizzou’s dominant first half of a team that many thought was a national championship contender. But, in the grand scheme of things, Denmon’s heroics against Vanderbilt Wednesday night were more improbable.
First, nobody would’ve faulted Denmon had he played a bad game given the recent tragic death of his cousin. That Denmon played so well—especially in the final 25 minutes of the game—is a testament to, as Michael Dixon put it, his “cojones.”
Second, Vanderbilt had the ball with the shot clock turned off and the score tied. The absolute last thing a team can do in that situation is turn the ball over. All Vanderbilt had to do was wait until 11 or so seconds to start running their offense. After a few idle passes, Denmon jumped in front of one and took it the length of the court for the layup and drew a foul in the process.
To make a football analogy, it’s like Vanderbilt had the ball on the 25 yard line with 15 seconds left. All they have to do is make a field goal to win the game. Instead, somebody misses an assignment on the line, the kick is blocked, and it’s run back for a game-winning touchdown. The field goal wasn’t a guarantee, but the last thing you can afford to have happen is to have it blocked.
While Denmon plays stellar defense and Vanderbilt has had turnover problems this year, nine times out of 10 the Commodores don’t turn the ball over in that scenario. That Denmon was able to get such an improbable steal speaks not only to his talent, but also to the determination he showed in the second half and overtime.
For Mizzou, the win means the team went 2-1 in its three-game stretch against Georgetown, Oregon, and Vanderbilt. Going 1-2 wouldn’t have been catastrophic, but it would’ve heaped pressure on Mizzou to beat Illinois Dec. 22 in an effort to have a good non-conference win on its NCAA Tournament résumé.