Photo credit: USA Tod
This game has become part of the Holiday tradition for many Mizzou and Illini fans. What is this game called?
It's called Braggin' Rights.
This annual basketball tradition between the Missouri Tigers and the Illinois Illini will play for the 53nd time on December 22nd. But to be accurate, it has only been called "Braggin Rights" since 1980, when the game started playing annually in St. Louis.
Braggin' Rights started picking up energy and intensity during the coaching eras of the Illini's Lou Henson and Mizzou's Norm Stewart. These two legendary coaches met 21 straight times in this game, with Henson winning 11 and Stewart pulling out 10.
Since then, the game has been coached by the likes of Bill Self, Bruce Weber, Lon Kruger, Quinn Snyder. Mike Anderson, and Counzo Martin. Now Illinois' Brad Underwood and Mizzou's Dennis Gates will face off against each other for the first time.
But I want to take a look back at Mizzou's three most consequential victories in the series. All three propelled the Tigers to a NCAA Tournament bid.
December 23, 2009. The Kim English Game.
By the time of the Braggin' Rights game in 2009, the Illini had won 9 straight, dating back to the second year of the Quinn Snyder era. Mizzou fans were getting grumpy by this time, which resulted in Quinn Snyder getting showered by popcorn after one loss.
But Mike Anderson finally won on his third attempt in 2009 with a 81-68 victory to break the losing. streak. This team included Marcus Denman, Laurence Bowers, Michael Dixon, and Keith Ramsey. But it was Kim English who led the Tigers with 24 points(15 of which were from 3-point range)and 6 rebounds. Dixon added 16 points starting in place of a sick Zaire Taylor.
The Tigers shot 55% from the field in the first half and led 41-34 at half-time. The Illini couldn't close the gap in the second half, only shooting 35%.
December 8. 1981. The Ricky Frazier Game.
This game was played during the heady days of Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold. The Tigers lineup also included the likes of Mark Dressler, Marvin "Moon" McCrary, and Prince Bridges.
However, it was Ricky Frazier who led the Tigers to a 78-68 overtime win with his game high 28 points. Additionally, Mizzou drilled 15 free throws in overtime to nail down this victory.
The Braggin' Rights win propelled the Tigers to a 19-0 start, which led to Mizzou being rated Number 1 in both the AP and UPI polls on January 26th, holding it for two weeks. This Norm Stewart-coached team won the Big 8 regular season championship, the Big 8 Tournament championship, and made a Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA Tournament.
This Mizzou team finished the 81-82 season with a 27-4 record and number 5 in both polls.
December 22,1993. The Melvin Booker Game.
So far, this 108-107 Triple OT win for the Tigers was the most entertaining game of the 52 game series....at least for Mizzou fans. It also propelled the Tigers to their most impressive season in Norm Stewart's legendary coaching career,
Center Jevon Crudup led the Tigers with 22 points, but it was Melvin Booker who hurled Mizzou to victory with a school record of 13 assists. Booker, who was the heart and soul of this team, drove the lane to set up Lamont Frazier's shot to send the game into the first overtime. During the first overtime, he attacked the basket and fed Kelly Thames for a basket, which helped lead to a second OT.
Eventually, Booker fouled out in the third OT, but the Tigers finally won with substitutes on the floor.
This win helped set in motion a season that led Tigers to a Big 8 Regular Season Championship with a perfect 14-0 record. It also led to a Number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, an Elite 8 run, a Number 5 rating in the final AP poll, and a 28-4 record.
Both teams need a win on Thursday night. The Tigers have good road wins over Wichita State and Central Florida, but lack a win over a Power 5 school. A victory for the Illini would be a good resume builder for the NCAA tournament.
Both coaches need for their teams to show more consistency as they start play in their respective conferences. Weather permitting, this should be a another great showdown in this series.