History has two sides, two stories. The winners get to write the history books.
Norfolk State, in its first NCAA Tournament appearance made sure its debut would be historic. Missouri, which has the second-most NCAA appearances without making the Final Four, made the kind of forgettable history that makes fans wince whenever it is mentioned.
The Spartans became the fifth No. 15 seed (before Lehigh became the sixth later Friday) to upset a No. 2 seed. The Tigers, coming off the high of winning the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship, crashed in a stunning 86-84 NCAA Tournament upset loss in Omaha, Neb.
The last time a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2 was 2001 when Hampton of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference knocked off Iowa State, the Big 12 regular-season champions. Norfolk State, which will face No. 7 seed Florida Sunday, is also a member of the MEAC.
"Coming into the game, I believed it. I believed it from the jump. Honest to God's truth," Norfolk State's Rodney McCauley said. "We've got good shooters. We dig deep. We're not ready to go home yet. We've got five seniors. We're ready to keep playing."
Missouri (30-5) was a favorite to win the West Regional and advance to the Final Four; even President Obama had the Tigers advancing to New Orleans. Instead, the Tigers added to an NCAA history that features more failures than triumphs. Missouri joins Arizona as the only school to lose first-round games seeded No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4.
"We had higher expectations for ourselves, and there is really nothing to say when you come out and you don't perform," said Missouri senior guard Marcus Denmon, who scored 20. the way you perform. We gave up 86 points ... You can't win a game giving up 86 points."
season, the Tigers had turned perceived negatives - a lack of height and depth
- into a positive. However, against Norfolk State the lack of height became a
key factor that Missouri couldn't overcome.
Kyle O'Quinn, a 6-10, 240-pound center, had 26 points and 14 rebounds for the Spartans, who had a 35-23 rebounding edge. They also committed just 11 turnovers against Missouri's four-guard lineup while shooting 54.2 percent from the field.
All of Norfolk State's starters are 6-5 or taller but that length didn't bother the Tigers. They shot 52.7 percent and were 13-of-29 on 3-pointers. But over half of Missouri's shots came from behind the arc.
O'Quinn's three-point play with 34.9 seconds remaining gave Norfolk State an 84-81 lead. After a Demon miss, O'Quinn made one of two free throws for an 85-81 lead with 16 seconds remaining. Phil Pressey (20 points, eight assists) hit a 3-pointer to make it 85-84 with 10 seconds remaining.
McCauley made one of two free throws with eight seconds remaining to make it 86-84. O'Quinn grabbed the second miss - another example of Missouri's rebounding woes - and was fouled he missed both, giving the Tigers a final chance.
With 2.9 seconds remaining, Missouri inbounded in its back court. Pressey took the pass just across mid-court, dribbled twice and launched a 25-footer from the left wing. After making his first four 3-pointers, this one bounced off the back of the rim.
"I'm very disappointed, as everyone in that locker room was," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I hurt for those seniors because they put so much into this. They had high expectations as we came into this season, but let's understand one thing - they had a hell of a year."
Haith's team played well enough to win. Missouri became the first team in NCAA Tournament history to make at least 10 3-pointers, shoot at least 50 percent from the field, commit fewer than 10 turnovers and lose the game. On March 16, 2012 - 11 years to the day after the last No. 15 over a No. 2 - for 40 minutes, Norfolk State was the better team.
* The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference has won four NCAA Tournament games. One was Florida A&M's victory over Lehigh in the 2004 opening round game. The other three have come as No. 15 seeds beating No. 2 seeds - Coppin State over South Carolina in 1997, Hampton over Iowa State in 2004 and Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012.
* Norfolk State's 86 points are the third-most by a 15-seed, behind Eastern Michigan's 90 vs. Pittsburgh in 1988, and Long Island's 87 last year.
* Missouri is the fourth team to lose in the round of 64 after entering the tournament with 30 or more wins. Utah State did it twice, in 2009 and 2011, and Belmont did it in 2011.