Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — With a loose ball secured in his hands and less than 15 seconds to play in a tie game, Keith Shamburger paused. It didn’t take long for the Missouri guard to realize what everyone else already knew.
It was his shot to take.
Just 10.9 seconds remained in Shamburger’s final home game when he sunk a short jumper for his 20 and 21st points of the night, capping a 9-0 run and giving Missouri a 63-61 win Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
“They told me he was thinking about throwing an alley oop to Keanau (Post),” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “I told him, ‘I’m glad you shot it.’”
The transfer point guard who had been encouraged by coaches to play more aggressive offensively took over on Senior Night, scoring 11 of his team’s 15 points and hitting his first game-winner since high school.
“I wish I was here all four years,” said Shamburger, who played at San Jose State and Hawaii before transfering to Missouri his final season. “It sucks to just be here for the couple months that I was here. Just going out here and giving it my all, that’s all I could do. I’m going to miss this place. I’m going to love this place like home.”
The game was Missouri’s last of the year at Mizzou Arena, a venue that has hosted its fair share of disappointment this season. Missouri dropped eight games at home this year, including a disappointing season-opening loss to Missouri-Kansas City.
Still, the court bearing Norm Stewart’s signature is the only hardwood on which Missouri has defeated a Division I opponent this season. With the win, Missouri avoiding finishing under .500 at home for the first time since the 1967-68 season, Stewart’s first at Missouri.
Shamburger’s first-half outburst powered Missouri to a six-point lead, but neither team could gain a foothold in the half, trading the lead eight times and entering intermission tied at 30.
The Tigers and Tigers entered the game with more in common than stripes. Missouri and Auburn own the two worst records in SEC play, 2-14 and 4-12, respectively. It showed early, too. Missouri shot just 40 percent from the field in the first half against the 315th-worst defense in the country. Auburn notched an ignominious trifecta in the half, airballing a 3-point shot, a two-point shot and a free-throw attempt.
The teams flipped leads again in the second half, but Auburn began to distance itself, taking an eight-point lead with a 9-2 run. K.T. Harrell fueled the run with two 3-pointers. Harrell finished the game with a game-high 24 points.
The latter of the Harrell 3s set off a scoring binge in which each team traded 3-pointers twice. Sophomore Johnathan Williams III hit another three to give Missouri its third straight possession with a trey and bring Missouri within four points with 2:41 to play.
Two Shamburger free throws brought Missouri within 61-59 and freshman Namon Wright tied the game with 1:16 to play on a reverse layup.
Auburn turned the ball over on three of its last four possessions and didn’t score in the final three minutes of the game.
After Shamburger’s go-ahead score, Harrell tried a 3-pointer as time expired, but Wright pulled down the rebound to give Missouri consecutive SEC home wins for the first time this season.
The teams played each other back in Jan. 10, a 85-79 win by Auburn.
Shamburger scored 21 in that game as well, setting a season high that he tied Tuesday against Auburn. Why the success against the other Tigers?
“I don’t even know,” he said. “Probably because they recruited me.”
Post, Missouri’s second senior, finished with six points and four rebounds.
“All I can say is it just felt great, finishing with a win at home,” said Post, who played two years at Missouri after transferring from Southwestern Illinois Community College.
Despite an abundance of empty seats, the Mizzou Arena crowd of 6,619 made its voice heard.
“We had difficulty hearing the play calls, because it started to get a little loud.” Auburn freshman T.J. Lang said.
Anderson thanked the crowd after the game for their support during the trying season.
“I want to thank everybody for coming out tonight and for coming out this year,” he said. “ I know it’s not the year you wanted. It’s not the year I wanted. It’s not the year anybody wanted. … But you stuck with us.”
Though the crowds dwindled as the losses piled up, the Missouri faithful got to end the season on a high note, releasing perhaps its loudest cheer of the year as the buzzer sounded.
Missouri is now 9-21 heading into the regular-season finale Saturday at Mississippi State.
Auburn falls to 12-18.