Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Once-in-Lifetime Game Still Fresh in Minds of Tigers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Once-in-Lifetime Game Still Fresh in Minds of Tigers

Article excerpt

For thousands of hoarse and giddy St. Louis-area college basketball fans, it was a captivating, indelible holiday gift.

To University of Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson, it was one cruel loss that only seemed like several at once.

To Missouri's Julian Winfield, it was, well, the most wonderful night of his life.

Concentrated into one wild span of nearly four hours at The Arena last December, Winfield absorbed virtually the same level of emotion that he felt in accomplishments such as going undefeated through 14 Big Eight Conference games or winning three NCAA Tournament games.

"I was exhausted, and I still couldn't sleep," said Winfield, eagerly looking ahead to Thursday night's encore with Illinois in the first Braggin' Rights game at the new Kiel Center.

It wasn't just that Missouri defeated Illinois 108-107 in triple overtime, although that was overwhelming enough.

"When the third one came around, we were like, `What is this?' " Winfield said. "We could not actually believe it. . . . Three overtimes! In the locker room, we were just so happy. Ecstatic. Throwing ice all over each other. And all of a sudden, somebody goes, `It's 11:30.'

"I think that's got to be the best experience that any of us have ever been through in our lives."

Certainly, it was what galvanized the team for its success to come. But it was the harrowing, mesmerizing way the Tigers achieved victory that night, more than the pure result, that made it so gratifying.

It was images such as coach Norm Stewart being straitjacketed from officials by Jevon Crudup. . . . or Arena signs flashing "Illinois Wins" as the Tigers defiantly made four 3-pointers in the final minute of regulation to send it to overtime. . . or poor Kiwane Garris standing so alone on the free throw line with no time left and missing two shot to allow the game to go into a third overtime. It was all of this.

"How much time do you have?" Winfield said, smiling at the mere mention of the game. "Three overtimes. How the game went. …

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