OKLAHOMA CITY -- Playing the final game on a day where all three higher-seeded teams prior to Missouri fell victim to upsets, the Missouri men's basketball team couldn't afford to stumble out of the gate.
That's exactly what the Tigers did early in the first half.
But staying true to form, No. 3 Missouri wore down No. 11 Texas Tech in the second half, riding a 13-0 run early to an 81-60 victory at the Ford Center on Thursday night.
"It was a tale of two halves," coach Mike Anderson said. "And that's probably been the story of our basketball team this year."
All season long, Missouri players and coaches have repeated that its defense fuels its offense. That notion was on display against Texas Tech in the second half.
A deflection by Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year J.T. Tiller led to a steal and a basket by senior forward DeMarre Carroll to tie the game. On the ensuing Texas Tech inbound, Carroll went flying into press row, helping spark Missouri in the same way Justin Gage's memorable dive in the 2002 Sweet 16 lifted Missouri to a win against UCLA.
"Oh, man, that was definitely a spark that got the crowd into it and definitely got the team into it," Tiller said. "When he went for that ball and dived over the table, I knew what was next to come. I felt sorry for what Texas Tech had to face after that."
With the teams tied at 35 points, senior forward Leo Lyons started the run with a strong move on the baseline finished by a two-handed slam. After a carrying violation by Texas Tech sophomore guard John Roberson, Lyons spun around in the lane and banked in a layup off the glass.
That's when Missouri's "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" defense kicked into high gear. Tiller ran a reckless Roberson out of bounds. After a Tiller basket, Carroll helped force a Texas Tech 10 second violation. And so it went, until Missouri had turned a 35-35 tie into a 48-35 advantage.
After his 43-point explosion against No. 6 Texas A&M last night, a Big 12 Championship record, all Missouri eyes were on Texas Tech sophomore forward Mike Singletary. Singletary finished with 17 points, scoring 10 in the second half with the game pretty much in hand for Missouri.
After going into halftime tied at 31, the Tigers nearly doubled up on Texas Tech in the second half, outscoring the Red Raiders 50-29 over the final 20 minutes.
"If there's a half we want to win, it's definitely the second half," senior forward Matt Lawrence said.
In defeating Texas Tech, Missouri became the only higher-seeded team to win its quarterfinal game. No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 4 Kansas State all lost to lower-seeded teams earlier in the day.
The win sets up a matchup of No. 3 Missouri and No. 7 Oklahoma State tonight. Oklahoma State is coming off of a classic 71-70 win over Oklahoma in the quarterfinals.