Oklahoma St.-Missouri Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- Playing in its final Big 12 tournament, Missouri will look to make it a special farewell.
The fifth-ranked Tigers will begin by taking on Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals Thursday night in Kansas City.
Missouri is headed to the SEC after this season, but first it will try to go out with its second Big 12 tournament title, the first coming in 2009.
Doing so could mean even bigger things for the second-seeded Tigers (27-4), who are still in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
While the players aren't ready to discuss a potential rematch with No. 3 Kansas in the final, they recognize what winning the tournament could do.
"This is what we've all been practicing for since the fall," sophomore Phil Pressey said. "Just keep winning. We control our own destiny."
After suffering a heartbreaking one-point overtime loss to the Jayhawks on Feb. 25, Missouri finished the regular season with back-to-back wins over Iowa State and Texas Tech.
The Tigers went 16 of 26 from 3-point range in an 81-59 victory over the Red Raiders on Saturday. Kim English scored 20 points while Marcus Denmon went 5 of 8 from beyond the arc en route to 17 as Missouri set a school record for regular-season victories.
"You want to be playing your very best basketball this time of the year to make a run in the conference tournament and to make a run in the national tournament," Frank Haith, the Big 12 coach of the year, said. "So it was important to keep playing the way we've been playing and continue to grow as a team and get better."
Denmon goes into the tournament hot. He's averaging 19.9 points the last nine games while shooting 50.7 percent (36 of 71) from 3-point range. The senior scored 21.0 points per game in the Big 12 tournament last season, when Missouri lost to Texas A&M in the quarterfinals after an opening-round win over Texas Tech.
One of the Tigers' four losses this season came against Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Jan. 25, but Missouri cruised to an 83-65 win in the rematch Feb. 15, with five players scoring at least 13 points.
The Cowboys (15-17) advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating No. 10 seed Texas Tech 76-60 on Wednesday. Keiton Page scored 20 points and Brian Williams added 19, with Oklahoma State seizing control with a 15-0 run early in the second half.
The Cowboys had ended the regular season losing their final two games by an average of 15.5 points. Page, the team's leading scorer, averaged 25.5 in those but didn't get much help with the team struggling with injuries.
Second-leading scorer Le'Bryan Nash is out for the season with a fractured hand suffered late last month.
"For these guys to continue to play as hard as they are, it's just fun to watch," coach Travis Ford said. "I'm just very proud of them."
With the team short-handed, Oklahoma State hopes for more from freshman Cezar Guerrero, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half Wednesday after not taking a shot in the first. He had 15 points in the Cowboys' final regular-season game after seeing sporadic playing time most of the season.
"I just felt like I needed to bring energy in," he said of Wednesday's effort.
The winner of this game will take on either third-seeded Iowa State or sixth-seeded Texas on Friday.
Updated March 8, 2012