When Missouri traveled to Norman, Okla., to take on the Sooners on Monday for a quick turnaround following Saturday's thrilling victory over archrival No. 8 Kansas, the trip could have been reminiscent of the time the Tigers met Oklahoma State following a win over Baylor, an elite foe like Kansas.
But the No. 4 Tigers (22-2, 9-2 Big 12 Conference) were able to avoid the trap this time, winning 71-68. Senior guard Marcus Denmon, named the league’s Player of the Week the afternoon leading up to tipoff, led the team to victory with 25 points. With the win, the Tigers jumped a half-game ahead of Kansas and Baylor in league standings.
It marked Denmon’s 25th career game with 20 or more points. Senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe registered his fourth career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Michael Dixon added 13 points and five assists off the bench.
Missouri appeared sluggish at the beginning of the game, struggling to rotate quickly enough in its defensive zone, so the Sooners (13-10, 3-8 Big 12) took advantage, connecting on eight of their first 10 field goal tries. Much of the opening half was played neck-and-neck until the Tigers tugged away on a 15-4 scoring run for a 36-33 halftime advantage.
Denmon extended the streak by draining a three-pointer, connecting on each free throw after being fouled behind the arc and scoring on an up-and-under in the first four possessions.
With 3:37 to go, Oklahoma's Steven Pledger made his fourth three-pointer of the half to cut Missouri’s advantage to two. He kept the Sooners' threat alive by scoring 12 in the half alone, but it would be his team’s free throw performance that would doom an upset.
Down by three, Oklahoma had the chance to tie the game with three seconds remaining, so Haith instructed Denmon to foul the Sooner who caught the ball out of bounds, Romero Osby. The first shot was missed, and so was the second purposely.
Pledger came up with the loose rebound but missed the game-tying three-point attempt.
Missouri will face Baylor on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.