Coach Frank Haith and the Missouri men's basketball team insist Wednesday’s rematch with Oklahoma State at Mizzou Arena is more about learning from mistakes than exacting revenge.
“It’d be just another 'W' on our resume,” junior guard Michael Dixon said.
Three weeks ago the Cowboys pulled a stunning upset, defeating the then-No. 2 Tigers 79-72.
That night was an uncharacteristic one for both teams, as the Tigers shot just 40 percent from the field, 10 points below their season average. On the flip side, the Cowboys shot a season-high 59.6 percent from the field, up 18 points from their median mark.
“They shot the ball well," senior guard Kim English said. "We let young guys get confidence and that’s dangerous on the road, because they’re oblivious to how big a game is. They’re just out there playing and they got going.”
This time around, the Tigers will be the hosts, welcoming the Cowboys to Mizzou Arena, where No. 3 Missouri (23-2, 10-2 Big 12 Conference) is 14-0 this season and the senior class has lost on just three occasions. Oklahoma State (12-13, 5-7 Big 12), meanwhile, is 1-5 in conference road games.
Missouri has won all five of its games since that Jan. 25 loss, and the players believe the lessons learned the hard way in Stillwater, Okla., have allowed them to be more successful recently.
“We know why we lost, we’ve seen why we lost,” English said. “They played a good game, and, taking nothing away from them, we were a lot of the reason why we lost. We didn’t execute down the stretch and we didn’t get stops down the stretch.”
English referenced a recent film session with assistant coach Tim Fuller, who broke down the Tigers’ shortcomings in the final 6 1/2 minutes against the Cowboys. Missouri then led 61-53. English said there were roughly 11 possessions left in the game at that time.
“If we would have gotten good shots for five of those and gotten stops for four of those, we would have won the game, but we didn’t,” English said.
English was rather forthcoming about the greatest lesson taken away from that night.
“The last four and a half, five minutes of the game you’ve got to run your stuff offensively, eating clock up and getting good shots at the basket, and then get stops,” English said. “If you want to win, you have to do one of those two things. If you want to do win comfortably, you have to do both of those things, and if you want to lose, you can do neither of those two things.”
Freshman forward Le’Bryan Nash played a key role in the Cowboys' unraveling of the Tigers.
Nash scored 13 points in the game’s final 6:30, en route to a career-high 27 points in addition to hauling in four rebounds and dishing out four assists.
That wondrous performance has served as the coming-out party for the Dallas native. In five games since, Nash has recorded double figures in each, averaging 13.8 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game.
English said he's not sure where he would rank Nash among the Big 12’s elite but did have high praise for the youngster.
“He’s a really good player, probably the best freshman in the league,” English said.
Haith made sure to point out that Nash wasn’t the only Cowboy underclassman to play exceptionally well against Missouri. Fellow freshman Brian Williams recorded a career-high of his own with 22 points. Sophomore Markel Brown also stood out, chipping in eight points, highlighted by his emphatic finish of a second-half alley-oop.
Oklahoma State's underclassman-laden roster has had its struggles in Big 12 road play, but Haith is well aware of the challenge his team will face Wednesday night.
“We know they beat us," Haith said. "This is a very capable team."