The end hurts, but it doesn’t overshadow the journey.

SACRAMENTO, CA–I don’t want to paint with a very wide brush here. I think there are a lot of Mizzou fans who, even after a 78-63 loss you just didn’t think should happen, can appreciate the bigger picture. Perspective is pretty rare for sports fans, especially online, but there are some who have it, and I want to make sure the next few paragraphs don’t offend those who do.

I think there are people out there who will want this column to be something it won’t be. Some will want a little fire, a little rage, and some rant. How could this happen? Where were the tough questions? How can you ever use the words embarrassing or inexcusable?

Why have not you gone. It was just sport. I’m not embarrassed about it. You shouldn’t be either. Missouri lost a game to a team that was better than it was most of the season and a team that was likely to be better than it was most nights. But not tonight. And so, while Princeton goes to Louisville and plays the game most of us thought Missouri was going to play, the Tigers go home.

You know who had perspective right after the loss? Denis Gates. And your players.


Were they upset? Clear. Hurt? Almost certainly. But I asked after a loss that ended their season and meant that this particular team would never play another game they wanted to be remembered for, a group of men much younger than me and probably most people reading this were able to touch the wake up right.

“Establishing a foundation, building that culture at Columbia, engaging the fans back,” senior Three Gomillions he said. “Just doing things we did. First of all, we shouldn’t be here. We weren’t supposed to make the SEC semifinals. I mean, at the end of the day we lost today, but we have a lot to be proud of. So I will say this.”

Of course it was Gomillion who said it perfectly. He did not play the final weekend of his college career. He was in tears ahead of Thursday’s win over Utah State – Missouri’s first in the NCAA Tournament in 13 years and yes, sure, that must be stated again – because his groin injury didn’t allow him to go . So he sat on the bench and cheered and trained and did everything he could to get his teammates to the Sweet 16. But they fell short.

“I just want to be remembered as a group of guys who loved each other on and off the court,” he said. Ben Sternberg he said. “We were together every day in the crib, obviously at the gym. Not only that, but we want to be known as the stepping stone to the trainer. Coach, it’s obviously his first year. We want him to create the culture here. Now the teams to come will follow us.”

Sternberg started with Gates as manager of Cleveland State. Then a Cleveland State walk-on. Than a walk-on Mizzou better known for his video blogs than his action on the ground, including the final seconds on Saturday. Gates wanted him – and Gomillion and D’Moi Hodge It is Mabor Majak– in Missouri because he wanted a living, inspiring example of the culture he was trying to instill in Missouri. Mission Accomplished.

“Going to Mizzou wasn’t a difficult decision for me, especially playing for the coach at Cleveland State,” said Hodge. “Just building the foundation of what we know he can be and what his goals are was really good. Mizzou fans supporting us and having faith in us to come here and do what we do means a lot to the Columbia community. Thanks to them for embracing me and my team.”

Hodge was a very good player in the Horizon League. And then he was pretty good in the Southeastern Conference and Mizzou’s top scorer in that Thursday win over Utah State.

No more than 30 minutes after the final game of their college careers – because none of those three or DeAndre Gholston can go back – they were able to enjoy the ride they took. And the ride they took us all on.

Some might think this is the easy way out. Why am I not more focused on the fact that Missouri lost to a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament? Where is the anger and frustration that the Tigers had a Sweet 16 appearance and failed to grab it?

This is a Saturday story. Undoubtedly. If you had turned in the Princeton coach Mitch Henderson a piece of paper before the game and told him to write his script, it couldn’t be much different from what happened. Princeton destroyed Missouri at the boards, bullied them into the paint at both ends and when they convinced Gates he needed to go into a defense zone to stop the internal bleeding. Ryan Longborg It is Blake Peters bombed to 9-of-20 from three-point range and held Missouri at bay for the full 40 minutes. Princeton is not a better team than Missouri every day. But it was better this day.

“We managed to take the lead once,” Gates said. “Every time we won or when they had an advantage, we reduced it to six, they came back and did what a good team would do: shoot or make a play. It just wasn’t our day to make those plays or make those same shots.

“They were the best team today.”

Yes, that’s a story. That’s the story of this day. It’s not what I want to tell. It’s not the story of this team.

“I have always appreciated my guys from the beginning of our conversations and journey,” said Gates. “They did a tremendous job. They did everything I asked them to do. They did even more, right?

“What they’ve managed to do together is 20 years from now we’ll look back, 10 years from now we’ll look back, five years from now we’ll look back and see how important what they did was. done.”

Some might think tonight is not the night for that appreciation? But why not? If they can put that into perspective immediately after the game, shouldn’t we be able to do the same? They invested more in it than we did. It probably hurts them more than any of us.

Embarrassing? Inexcusable? No. No way.

It was a bad end to an amazing tour. Just like Utah State was two days ago and 65 other finals will be. If the end doesn’t hurt, the journey wasn’t worth it. So okay it hurts now. But it can’t erase what happened along the way.

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