Friday, March 9 -
No. 5 Mizzou’s road to the Big 12 championship had to go through a tough, desperate Texas team in Friday’s semifinal showdown. Despite a dismal rebounding effort, the Tigers prevailed 81-67 and moved one step closer to a conference title.
Missouri’s star senior guard Marcus Denmon could not find the bottom of the net, failing to convert a single field goal. He managed only two points on the evening, both coming from free throw line.
With their primary weapon struggling, the Tigers looked for other scoring options. In comes flashy point guard, Phil Pressey. Pressey sliced his way through the lane for a fast break lay up and followed with a deep three on the next possession to give the Tigers a 39-26 advantage with 3:01 remaining in the half.
As the second half picked up, Pressey’s hot shooting came to a screeching halt. In comes savvy veteran Kim English to pick up the slack. English scored seven straight points for Mizzou. He finished with 23 points, shooting 9-10 from the field.
Missouri’s multiple threats seemed to frustrate the Longhorns, which led to a physical second half. Texas center Clint Chapman clubbed Ricardo Ratliffe across the face and sparked a brief scuffle between the two squads.
Eventually, each team saw key players go down with injuries. Big 12 leading scorer J’Covan Brown landed hard, hurting his head and neck. Mizzou’s English took a knee to the thigh and also had to get helped off the court. Both players recovered and saw significant minutes down the stretch, but the two scary moments illustrated the game’s brutal nature.
Although Brown returned and knocked down a three to pull the Longhorns within 13 at the 3:53 mark, Mizzou’s balanced scoring was too much to overcome.
The Tigers will face Baylor in the highly anticipated championship game at 5 p.m. at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
English will be cleared to play in the final, but his thigh bruise is likely to cause major stiffness. With one weapon on the mend, Mizzou turns to its multitude of others. Denmon will attempt to get back on track and lead his squad to a championship in its final season in the Big 12 conference.
- RJ Layton