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December 26, 2012

Two sides of a Story



As a Missouri fan, it's what made you cynical. It is Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. It is the light at the end of the tunnel that turns out to be the oncoming train. It made you believe in curses, made you believe in karma, made you believe that no matter what Missouri does, a fifth down or a kicked ball or Four-Point-Eight will always ruin everything.

You remember the situation. Every Missouri fan does. It has haunted your dreams for almost 18 years. Julian Winfield just beat the shot clock with a go-ahead layup off a pretty pass from freshman Kendrick Moore. Timeout UCLA. Missouri by one. It has top-ranked UCLA facing its own mortality in the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Four-point-eight seconds to play. The eighth-seeded Tigers are one defensive stand away from the Sweet 16. The Bruins need a miracle to move on.



The officiating crew gathers near center court. Don't come up with any crap, Ron Zetcher tells his two fellow referees. If you're going to call a foul, make sure it's a foul. It's too important.

As the two teams break their respective huddles, Norm Stewart realizes he still has his own timeout remaining. This might be the most important tactical decision of his coaching career. Naturally, he seeks the advice of a junior college transfer who hasn't left the bench the whole game.

Corey Tate tells him not to call a timeout.

"He turned to me and says, 'Aw, s---, should I call a timeout?' I'm like, no, we'll be okay. Don't call a timeout," Tate said. "He says, 'Aw, sh--, I'm calling a timeout!'"

"If you ever look at the footage, not too many people realize it, but the reason we're scrambling is because Coach Stewart was going back and forth to the refs trying to tell them he wanted a timeout."

Before Stewart can grab the attention of officials, they've already handed the ball to UCLA's Cameron Dollar on the baseline.

"You know the rest," Tate said.

The whistle blows. Dollar throws the ball to
Tyus Edney. Edney cuts past Jason Sutherland in the backcourt. He lofts a running right hander over all 6-foot-10 plus outstretched arms of Derek Grimm. The ball spirals into the hoop as time expires.

Four-point-eight seconds. 75-74 Bruins. And a lifetime of heartache and what ifs.

A few months later, during the summer of 1995, Stewart asked Zetcher what exactly his officiating crew had discussed in that huddle with 4.8 seconds remaining on the clock. Zetcher told him about the standard late-game conversation they'd had to make sure they wouldn't call any ticky-tack fouls.

"Stewart, goes, 'Oh, if I knew that, I should have told my kids to knock the sh-- out of that guy!'" Zetcher said.

Even that might not have stopped Tyus Edney.

*****************************


It's a good thing Missouri and UCLA will play at Pauley Pavilion on Friday. If the game were in Columbia, the Bruins' Director of Basketball Operations might not be able to make the trip.

His name is Tyus Edney.

"It wouldn't be a number one vacation spot for me," Edney said, "if you know what I'm saying."

He'll need to make the proper accommodations for 2013, then. Per the home-and-home agreement between the two programs, the Bruins will play at Mizzou Arena on an unspecified date next season. Friday's game marks only the seventh meeting in history between UCLA and Missouri, and they've played just once since Edney's shot. That was the regional semifinal of the 2002 NCAA Tournament in San Jose, when Quin Snyder's team marched to the Elite Eight by knocking off Steve Lavin's Bruins.

Edney wasn't on UCLA's staff under Lavin, though. After a four-year stint in the NBAs in the late nineties, he won numerous championships and awards in Europe for a decade and then joined Ben Howland on the bench at his alma mater in 2010.

For 18 years, Missouri fans have used "Edney" as the most vile curse word in the English language. On Friday, he'll greet them for the first time since the mad four-point-eight dash.

"It's been a while since we've played Missouri," Edney said. "We're expecting it to be tough like it was when we played them."

If that's true, get ready for a showdown this weekend. That second-round contest in 1995 would have made its way onto ESPN Classic even without Edney's buzzer-beater. Fresh off a victory over Bob Knight's Indiana squad in the first round, the Tigers caught fire in the first half and traded punches with the nation's top-ranked team from the tip.

The spurt begins early. Sutherland drills a three from the right wing. 6-4 Missouri. Winfield abuses Ed O'Bannon off the dribble and spins for a layup. 8-4. Winfield with a bucket in transition. 10-4. Sutherland for three-again. 13-6.

"Being here and involved in our season, we didn't get to see them play a lot," Edney said. "But we quickly realized they were a legit team and a really good team. I just remember they were solid, at every position. They had height, size, shooting, point guards, I mean, that team was really good."

Missouri loses a bit of its swagger when Winfield picks up his third foul early in the half, but it keeps gunning from beyond the arc. Leading scorer Paul O'Liney, the stocky transfer from Pensacola, Fla., drills two threes in a row from NBA range at one point in the first half and scores 16 points before the break.

Missouri leads by eight at the half. It'll be a little bit tight in the locker room of UCLA, says famous Marquette coach and CBS color commentator Al McGuire. The threes keep falling early in the second half. Sutherland makes another one. O'Liney pulls up in transition and swishes an off-balance triple.

Tigers by nine with 16 minutes to play. Five minutes later, the lead is gone. Twelve unanswered by UCLA and the top-ranked Bruins reclaim the momentum.

The final minutes of the game turn tense. Grimm's deep three-pointer as the shot clock expires with five minutes to play gives the Tigers a two-point lead. He'll make three from beyond the arc in this game, even though he woke up with the flu and a 103-degree fever.

Missouri clings to a narrow lead in the final minutes. It fouls Ed O'Bannon with 58 seconds to play. He makes both free throws. Tigers down one. A foul call with 38.9 seconds left doesn't put MU at the line, but it gives Stewart the chance to hold for one last shot.

The ball is in the hands of a freshman from Hartford. Two years later, Kendrick Moore will transfer to Providence. On this day, he waits until the shot clock strikes six. Then, he makes his move. Edney is draped all over him, so Moore perches his head up and sees Winfield floating toward the middle of the paint.

Moore delivers. Winfield converts. It's supposed to be the last shot of the game, but Missouri leaves 4.8 seconds on the clock.

"I was standing right across the court from Coach Stewart, he had a look on his face of just extreme -- and I've known Norm Stewart for a long time -- of extreme confidence that they were gonna win the game," Zetcher said.

They didn't.

"I think about it all the time," O'Liney said. "I never forget the 4.8 seconds."

The college basketball universe doesn't forget about the 4.8 seconds, either. That final play ofovershadows the Tigers' heroic upset effort and unexpected 20-win season. A year after an Elite Eight appearance, Missouri graduated the bulk of its team and entered the 1994-95 season without much fanfare. But O'Liney developed into a star, and previous benchwarmers like Grimm, Sutherland and Winfield helped Missouri finished 20-9.

"To do what we did, nobody was expecting that. We lost like eight seniors that year, and nobody thought we would be able to get back to the tournament like that," O'Liney said. "So I think we surprised some people.

"People that know about it in Florida, I can't go anywhere without someone saying 'Hey I remember that.' It's all they ever talk about. It's something I'll never forget, I know that."

Edney's shot propelled UCLA to a national championship in 1995.

Four years later, Stewart retired.

"He was so devastated he took the kids off the floor, they never showered I don't think. They left the floor, got their stuff and went to the airport," Zetcher said. "I think that loss for him, probably more than anything he ever had ... and I'm speaking for myself, not him. But years later, it was over. He was gone."

********************


With each passing year, the legend of Edney's shot fades. And yet it grows. It is now an iconic image of March, as famous as Laettner's turnaround, Jordan's jumper and Jim Valvano's search for someone to hug.

"Almost universally, every year, everybody gets to see the play again on TV," said Kim Anderson, an assistant on the '95 team and the current head coach at the University of Central Missouri. "Even my own team, my own teams over the last ten years here at Central, they'll come in right around that time of year and say 'Coach, we saw you on TV!' Generally, the first comment is, you had dark hair back then!"

Anderson played under Stewart in the mid-70s and coached under him from 1991 to 1999. Since then, he's won more than 200 games at Central Missouri.

He still can't escape Edney.

Fast-forward from 1995 to 2012. Central Missouri leads Central Oklahoma by a point in the final seconds of a regular-season contest. There's no Tyus Edney on the other end, but it sure feels like it.

"Same play. Not in the NCAA tournament, but we let a guy go the length of the floor. I swear, I think it was 4.8 seconds," Anderson said. "And that guy got there even quicker, there was like 0.8 seconds left. Someday, I'll learn."

Maybe he could have used Corey Tate for advice, like Stewart did in 1995 when he asked his junior college transfer on the bench whether he should call another timeout. Years after the fact, Zetcher said he can't even remember whether Missouri or UCLA called the initial timeout. Anderson blocked out that memory, too, and said he has no recollection of Tate's story.

"I don't remember that conversation," Anderson said. "Obviously, we probably should have done something differently."

Stewart could have called a timeout. He could have guarded the inbound. Maybe he could have placed one of the seven-foot Haley twins in front of Dollar. He could have made a different substitution or switched defenders on Edney.

It's all terrific fodder for the second-guessers in the media and know-it-all fans. It still doesn't change history.

"It was such a great play by a great player," Anderson said. "Even though we probably didn't do a great job defending him, he still made a great play."

You'll see the play again on television this Friday. Multiple times, probably. The camera will zoom on Tyus Edney on the bench, and then the montage will begin. You'll see Cameron Dollar inbound the ball, you'll see Edney cross halfcourt to his left, dribble behind his back to the right, and heave that layup off the backboard and into the basket. You'll see UCLA celebrating, Paul O'Liney embracing Cameron Dollar and a Haley twin keeled over on the court, both hands on top of his head, looking helpless.

Tyus Edney says it never gets old hearing about Four-Point-Eight. In Southern California, it's a wonderful memory, something that never gets old.

But he's not nave about how the state of Missouri feels about him.

"I know I'm usually talked about pretty badly. It was ... you know ... We had to win," Edney says with a laugh, as though he's pleading for forgiveness. "What were you gonna do?"

That's the question Missouri fans have been asking for 18 years.

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