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Madness to sadness

The 2011-12 Tigers were poised for a historic run heading into the West Region of the NCAA Tournament March 16, 2012, in Omaha, Neb. Instead, the No. 2-seed Big 12 Tournament champs fell to No. 15 Norfolk State 86-84 in one of the biggest upsets in Mizzou history.

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The Tigers and Spartans traded baskets for nearly 40 minutes until the final shot, a desperation 3-point attempt by sophomore guard Phil Pressey. It rattled off the rim, and the Spartan celebration began.

“We tried all week to explain to them how good Norfolk State is,” said Mizzou Coach Frank Haith. “You don’t see them on TV and the guys don’t know their players. You worry that they don’t understand that these guys are pretty doggone good.”

The most telling statistic was one that haunted Mizzou (30-5) in all five losses this season: rebounding. The Spartans (27-9) outrebounded the Tigers 37-25, and the underdogs shot a blistering 83.3 percent from behind the arc in the second half.

It’s a sad ending for a Tiger senior class that had New Orleans aspirations, especially for senior team leader Kim English.

“We didn’t execute,” said English, who was 1-7 from the floor and 0-5 from the 3-point line. “We didn’t play the brand of basketball that got us here.”

With the game tied at 38 to start the second half, the Tigers led by four with 6:40 to play. But Mizzou could never build a bigger lead, and the longer Norfolk State hung around, the louder the Spartan-partisan crowd became.

It is only the fifth time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed. No. 2s are 5-105 all time in the opening round.

“The crowd doesn’t really have any bearing on us mentally,” said junior guard Michael Dixon, who led the Tigers with 22 points. “Norfolk State’s a good team. They hit shots tonight and took advantage on the offensive glass.”

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