(AP) — Prevailing in some close games, including two against top 10 opponents, has kept Missouri in contention for a Big 12 title during its final season in the conference.
The fourth-ranked Tigers will try to use that experience in Saturday’s rematch with No. 6 Baylor, which will have a final chance for at least the near future to earn its first win at Missouri in 64 years.
Missouri (22-2, 9-2), which won its first 14 games this season by an average of 25.3 points, has claimed its past three victories by only a combined seven points. Short turnarounds before its most recent two road games haven’t helped as it had one day of rest before a 67-66 win over Texas on Jan. 30 and a 71-68 victory over Oklahoma on Monday.
The Tigers avoided overtime in the latter when the Sooners’ Steven Pledger missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That win came two nights after they pulled off a stunning 74-71 home victory over archrival Kansas by rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final three minutes.
Missouri, which will play in the SEC next season, remains tied atop the Big 12 with the No. 7 Jayhawks, who earned a decisive 68-54 win at Baylor on Wednesday.
“(Baylor is) probably the most talented team in our league. They had a tough game against Kansas, and I expect them to come in here angry,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said. “We feel good about coming in here and competing, but we’re going to get Baylor’s best shot.”
The Bears (21-3, 8-3) are also likely hungry to avenge an 89-88 home defeat to Missouri on Jan. 21, but they’ll have to snap a 10-game losing streak in Columbia to do so. Baylor recorded its most recent win there and one of two in 12 all-time visits on Dec. 17, 1948.
The Bears have also dropped eight straight to top 10 foes since an overtime victory at No. 6 Texas on Jan. 30, 2010.
“Kansas did a tremendous job bouncing back after their tough game with Missouri,” coach Scott Drew said. “We need to do the exact same thing this Saturday.”
A better performance from Perry Jones III could help. Baylor’s leading scorer (14.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.7) had five points on 1-of-8 shooting and three boards during the loss at Kansas.
The 6-foot-11 Jones, the Big 12’s preseason player of the year, was also limited to eight points and four rebounds in the loss to Missouri. Freshman forward Quincy Miller, meanwhile, had a career-high 29 points in that game and junior guard Pierre Jackson contributed 20 points and a career-best 15 assists.
Jackson had a team-best 16 points during Wednesday’s loss.
The Bears will also have to contend with a red-hot Marcus Denmon. Missouri’s leading scorer has a combined 54 points and has made 19 of 32 shots (59.4 percent) over the last two games, including 10 of 18 from 3-point range.
Denmon, second in the Big 12 with 18.0 points per game, shot 33.8 percent over the 12 games before that stretch and was 11 of 43 (25.6 percent) in his previous three. The senior guard missed six of seven shots from outside the arc against Baylor but finished with 17 points.
Ricardo Ratliffe, who leads the nation with a 75.5 field goal percentage, had a career-high 27 points while making 11 of 14 shots.
Missouri’s win was its fourth in the last five meetings, and the Tigers lead the series 14-10.