That the officials were whistling a very close game worked against heftier Kansas State, and by halftime, with Missouri ahead 29-28, Nealy, Forward Randy Reed, Center Les Craft and Swingman Lafayette Watkins all had three fouls. Nealy, the 6'7", 245-pound heart of the 'Cats, not to mention the beef, was to lead all rebounders with nine despite playing only 23 minutes.
Kansas State had no excuses at the beginning of the second half, however, when Sundvold, who finished with seven baskets and four assists, personally realigned the strategy of the game with three bombs over the zone. His club behind 37-30, Hartman called time-out and ditched the zone, after which K-State clawed back with a tight hen-to-hen defense. Also, the Wildcats scored seven unanswered points.
Shortly thereafter Missouri called time-out, and in the huddle Stewart ordered that spectacular alley-oop to Bridges. "I throw it anywhere in the building, he'll get it," said Sundvold. Which the Prince of Clean Air did. And now the Wildcats, getting no offensive aid from the usually consistent, 15-point-a-game Tyrone Adams and struggling with inexperienced freshmen, appeared to be in chaos.
Stipanovich, who ended up hitting nine of 11 shots for 20 points, and Walker, who was four of five from the floor and had three assists, continued to be effective as Missouri increased its lead to 51-43 and then went to a spread "layup game" offense with 8:05 to go. Obviously the battle was over, and Mizzou, the nation's second-best foul-shooting outfit (.778), would play out the string at the line. Well, uh-huh. The game was over, and that marvelous old sour lemon, Hartman, knew it. But he didn't let on to the 'Cats. Employing time-outs (four in 4:39) and fouls (five in 2:04) as if they were the final bullets in his arsenal, which they were, he kept K-State alive.
Four times in the final minute the Missouri deadeyes went to the foul line and dropped dead. Meanwhile, Kansas State made its own foul shots. Eduardo Galvao, a refugee from that basketball hotbed of S�o Paulo, Brazil, made two at :35 to cut the Missouri lead to 57-54. Samba time. Adams hit two more at :31 to make the score 57-56.
Miraculously, K-State still had a chance when two 'Cats trapped Sundvold at midcourt. But the Tiger quarterback spotted Stipanovich all alone and hurled him the ball. Stipo dunked for the clincher with 22 seconds remaining. "All I could see was a bunch of purple numbers coming after me," Stipanovich said of his final effort.
But for at least one more week the Tigers were still unbeaten. The only number that mattered to them was No. 1.