Missouri is primed to do all it can to win a tournament title in
its last season in the Big 12.
The fifth-ranked Tigers continue that mission Friday night when
they face Texas in a semifinal contest in Kansas City.
Set to leave for the SEC after this season, second-seeded
Missouri (28-4) is trying to go out with a bang by winning its
second Big 12 tournament championship. The Tigers’ upcoming
defection has left the remaining members of the conference
resentful of the way they helped create turmoil for the league.
Missouri’s players are not worried about what opponents think,
but instead are focused on returning to the title game for the
first time since beating Baylor 73-60 in 2009 for the school’s only
championship in three tries. A victory Friday could pit the Tigers
against top-seeded Kansas, which edged them out of the
regular-season title, in a championship rematch.
“We want this as bad as we wanted the Big 12,” guard Kim English
said. “That’s why our loss (at Kansas) hurt so bad. It was the Big
12 championship game. We just want to win a championship. It’s not
a chip on our shoulder.”
English had 27 points on 11-of-13 shooting and Marcus Denmon
added 24 with eight rebounds as the Tigers shot 59.3 percent during
an 88-70 rout of Oklahoma State on Thursday.
“They’re a veteran, experienced, physically tough basketball
team,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. “They might not be the
tallest team, but they are a physical team.”
English has shot 17 of 24 while totaling 47 points in his last
two games. Kansas City native Denmon has averaged 22.0 points on
23-of-41 shooting, including 9 of 20 from 3-point range, in his
last three Big 12 tournament contests.
That likely does not bode well for sixth-seeded Texas (20-12),
which is all but certain to make its 14th straight NCAA tournament
appearance after a 71-65 upset of No. 25 Iowa State on
The Longhorns might have been in anyway, but coach Rick Barnes
used the occasion for a spirited halftime speech with his team
“Let’s just say we are on the bubble,” Barnes said after the
game, recounting his message to his team. “Now if I write down NIT
or NCAA, which one would you put your name under? Which one?
Whichever one you want, you have to earn it.
“We’ve been pretty resilient all year, but you’ve got to wait
for the end of the season.”
Missouri won both meetings with the Longhorns this season –
84-73 at home Jan. 14 and 67-66 on Michael Dixon’s game-winning
layup with 31 seconds left Jan. 30.
“We’re going to go out there and guard everybody,” said Texas
star guard J’Covan Brown, who scored a game-high 23 points
Thursday. “Tournament time is always a great thing to play in.”
Brown, the Big 12’s regular-season scoring champion at 20.0
points per contest, converted a 3-point play to break a 65-all tie
in the final minute Thursday to help send the Longhorns to their
third win in four games.
The junior has averaged 26.0 points in his last three games
overall, and he totaled 54 on 17-of-34 shooting against Missouri
An 85-73 loser to Kansas in last year’s final, Texas has reached
the Big 12 championship game six times but has never won it.