(AP) — Missouri blew its chance to pull even for the top spot in the Big 12 over the weekend. No longer able to win the conference title in their last season in the league, the Tigers must now focus on holding off other teams for second place.
One of those squads is surging Iowa State, which can tie No. 7 Missouri in the standings with a win Wednesday night as the crowd at Mizzou Arena honors the winningest class in school history.
Missouri (25-4, 12-4) appeared on its way to moving into a first-place tie with Kansas on Saturday when it built a 19-point lead over the then-No. 4 Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas, though, stormed back and outscored the Tigers 43-31 in the second half en route to an 87-86 overtime win.
“These guys played their hearts out. We left it on the court,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I read everything – we weren’t supposed to be in the game. We came out and competed.”
With Missouri moving to the SEC next season, its 105-year-old rivalry with the Jayhawks came to an end.
“Just the fact this one went to overtime, every play is so big,” said senior guard Marcus Denmon, who scored 28 points. “We had ample opportunities to close this game and we couldn’t do it.”
Kansas won 70-58 at Oklahoma State on Monday night to claim the Big 12 title outright, but that doesn’t mean Missouri has nothing more at stake in the regular season.
The Tigers lead No. 9 Baylor by one-half game for second place and are one game ahead of Iowa State (21-8, 11-5). Missouri earned a 76-69 road win over the Cyclones on Jan. 11 for its eighth straight victory in the series, but Iowa State is playing well and coming off an impressive road win of its own.
The Cyclones beat Kansas State 65-61 on Saturday for their third straight victory overall and seventh in nine games. That stretch started Jan. 28 with a 72-64 home win over then-No. 5 Kansas.
Iowa State may also be catching the Tigers at the right time, as they’ve dropped two in a row for the first time this season.
Senior guard Scott Christopherson scored a season-high 29 points to lead Iowa State on Saturday, shooting 10-of-13 including 5 for 5 from 3-point range.
Christopherson had a game-high 19 points in last month’s matchup with Missouri, which had six of its seven players score in double figures.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg is hoping for a similar performance from Christopherson, but isn’t putting too much stock into the Tigers entering on a bit of a slide.
“They’re still really fast, they still shoot it really well, they’re still really good,” Hoiberg said. “… They do so many different things that can hurt you.”
Iowa State already has its most wins since the 2000-01 team finished 25-6 and won the Big 12 title.
That accomplishment still pales in comparison to the Missouri senior class being honored Wednesday night. It has won a school-record 102 games in the last four seasons, led by Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe.
Denmon ranks ninth all-time in scoring at Missouri, while English is 13th. Ratliffe is on pace to break the school record for shooting percentage, as he leads the nation at 71.2 percent.