Missouri-Oklahoma St. Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- A high-profile road win has lifted Missouri to its best national ranking in 10 seasons, and this week's schedule would seem to provide an opportunity to stay at that lofty spot.
The No. 2 Tigers, though, were upset last season at Oklahoma State and are poised to avoid another letdown there Wednesday night.
Missouri (18-1, 5-1 Big 12) held off then-No. 3 Baylor 89-88 on Saturday and was rewarded with its first No. 2 ranking in the AP poll since Dec. 10, 2001. The Tigers haven't been this high in the Top 25 this late in a season since they were No. 1 on Feb. 19, 1990.
"The rankings are great, but that happened because we played a certain way," coach Frank Haith said. "We can't lose that intensity and focus that we've had this season."
Ranked 14th on Feb. 2, Missouri did just that in a 76-70 loss in Stillwater. The Tigers fell behind by 15 midway through the second half before launching a rally that fell short.
That Oklahoma State team, though, finished 20-14, while this season's squad has plenty of work to do to match that victory total.
The Cowboys (9-10, 2-4) have lost eight of 11 and a season high-tying three in a row. However, they made it tough for then-No. 25 Kansas State during a 66-58 home loss Saturday.
Oklahoma State, 7-2 at Gallagher-Iba Arena, cut a 13-point deficit with 4:24 remaining to three with two minutes to go but could get no closer.
"When you get that close to a ranked team, you have to hold on to it," freshman forward Michael Cobbins said. "We just let this one slip away."
Keiton Page, averaging a team-best 14.9 points, led the Cowboys with 17 but missed 13 of 17 shots. The senior guard played a big role in last season's upset of the Tigers as he and Jean-Paul Olukemi each scored 19 points.
"It's a dangerous game. You're going to get their best effort because you have the bull's-eye on your chest. They're a well-coached team and Page is outstanding. We have to be ready to play," Haith said.
Even with Page's efforts, Oklahoma State's scorers have barely outpaced the opposition this season. The Cowboys are averaging 65.9 points and allowing 65.8.
Missouri is the highest-scoring team in the Big 12 at 83.4 points a contest and one of the top shooting teams in the nation at 50.9 percent. This game is the first of two in a row against sub-.500 opponents with last-place Texas Tech visiting Mizzou Arena on Saturday.
Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe has led the way for the Tigers, shooting 77.2 percent from the field to lead the nation. He went 11 of 14 while scoring a career-high 27 points against Baylor.
Ratliffe added a team-best eight boards to help the Tigers outrebound the much taller Bears 32-26.
Despite the 6-foot-8 Ratliffe being the only starter taller than 6-6, Missouri is allowing the fewest rebounds in the Big 12 at 31.1 per game. Oklahoma State is giving up the most at 39.2.
The Tigers, winners of five of past seven matchups, lead the series 75-40 but are 21-28 in Stillwater heading into their final visit as a Big 12 team. Missouri joins the SEC next season.
Updated January 24, 2012