Texas-Missouri Preview

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

Thursday.

The Longhorns might have been in anyway, but coach Rick Barnes

used the occasion for a spirited halftime speech with his team

trailing.

“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

this season.

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.