BOISE, Idaho -- Following the defensive battle between Xavier-Wisconsin earlier in the day, watching Missouri and Marquette was a refreshing jolt of speed and scoring, capped by a stirring and slightly controversial finish.
Missouri freshman Kim English emerged as the unlikely star after making two free throws with 5.5 seconds left and the scored tied, the winning points in an 83-79 victory. English was in that position because senior guard J.T. Tiller injured his hand when he was fouled on a drive, forcing him to leave the game.
"[Coach Mike Anderson] just said 'Kimi,' 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. ''
In addition to those free throws, English scored 17 points in 12 minutes off the bench, including 15 in one six-minute stretch.
"Kim comes in like that and it just sparks all the rest of us," said Missouri's Matt Lawrence.
Added Anderson: "Kim is playing with a lot of confidence right now and our guys know that. There are quantity of minutes and the quality of minutes and he gave us quality."
1. J.T. Tiller was really injured, sort of. Marquette fans went nuts when Tiller gave way to English, citing a hand injury, only to try and enter the game after English made those two free throws. Cries that Missouri had "cheated," that Tiller was faking the injury to get English into the game are farcical. First, Tiller is actually a better free-throw shooter than English, 75.9 percent to 65.2 percent, and the hand he hurt was the same one he sprained earlier in the season. "It was obvious he was hurt," Anderson said. As for why Tiller then tried to re-enter the game so quickly, Anderson said: "Once he came over and sat down, he is that kind of guy who wants to get back in there."
2. Dominic James was not healthy enough to really help the Golden Eagles. The injured Marquette point guard, coming back from a broken bone in his foot that was thought to have ended his season, gutted it out in the first half and early in the second, but he couldn't get past anyone and was a liability on defense. He was even limping when he walked to the scorer's table, and played 17 minutes, only four in the second half. "I feel like I played decent but I couldn't play as aggressive as I wanted to be," James said. Replacement Maurice Acker played admirably, but Golden Eagles fans are left to wonder what might have been had James been 100 percent.
3. Kim English is a character. English has the potential to be a quote machine. Before the first round game against Cornell, English said the Tigers needed to beat Cornell now because someday they would be working for the Big Red players. On Sunday, his comments were more muted (pleasing the Missouri PR folks, I'm sure), but look for his quotes coming out of the West Regional in Phoenix. The boy has promise.
Jerel McNeal. In a losing effort, he tied his career-high with 30 points, including 13 of 15 from the free throw line. It was a heartbreaking end to McNeal's career and reminiscent of the finish to last season. In the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament, he scored 30 points as the Golden Eagles fell to Stanford in overtime.
One of the scoreboards at Taco Bell Arena malfunctioned and for most of the first half, it read as if Missouri was playing Wisconsin. Arena personnel finally turned off the lighted portion reading "Wisconsin" and taped a white sign that read "Marquette" to the scoreboard.
A Memphis-Missouri matchup is "going to be a defensive slug match," says Missouri's DeMarre Carroll. But expect a lot of scoring as well, something like a repeat of what happened in Boise on Sunday.