With the school's impending move to the Southeastern Conference, Missouri will never win a Big 12 Conference regular season championship. But the Tigers can win their second Big 12 Tournament title Saturday.
An 81-67 victory over No. 6 seed Texas on Friday night at the Sprint Center advanced No. 2 seed Missouri to its fourth Big 12 Tournament title game, where the Tigers will face the No. 4 seed Baylor Bears tomorrow night.
“I’m proud of our kids,” coach Frank Haith said. “We played really together on the offensive end, and I thought we were solid on the defensive end.”
The most impressive performance of sophomore point guard Phil "Flip" Pressey’s collegiate career punched Missouri’s ticket to the title bout. Pressey set new career highs in points and three-pointers, finishing Friday’s contest with 23 points on 5-of-7 shooting from long range.
“Flip had one of those nights,” Haith said.
Pressey controlled the game from its onset, disrupting the Longhorn offense along the perimeter, setting the game’s tempo and torching of Texas with his outside shooting.
“Some teams tend to play me for the pass, some teams tend to just let me shoot, so I just took what the offense gave me and my teammates were confident in me to hit those shots,” Pressey said.
Pressey had 18 points on 4-of-6 outside shooting in the first half alone. The Dallas native also dished out a pair of assists without turning the ball over once in the game’s opening frame.
Joining Pressey in the personal offensive onslaught was senior forward Kim English, who had 14 first-half points on flawless 6-of-6 shooting.
The other five Tigers to appear in the first half accounted for just seven points, as Missouri held a 39-32 advantage after 20 minutes of play.
The duo of English and Pressey continued to pace the Tigers in the early goings of the second half, scoring nine of Missouri’s first 11 points after the break.
“When he gets hot, there’s not much you can do,” Pressey said of English’s performance.
Haith is quick to point out English has been focused all season, but believes English has been even more locked in the last two games.
“I’ve sensed he’s really determined and the way he’s played the last few days has been unbelievable in terms of shooting the ball," Haith said. "He’s been outstanding all over the court."
It all nearly came crashing down with 11:54 remaining in the game.
English came off a cut at the top of the key, and his quad collided with the knee of a Texas defender. Barely able to put weight on his right leg, the senior limped off to the locker room with MU trainer Pat Beckmann.
English returned minutes later to a standing ovation from the crowd. English would not record anymore points and did appear a bit hobbled, getting up and down the court with a slight limp in his step.
“I’ve just got to get treatment tonight," English said. "I’ll be fine for tomorrow."
The double-digit Missouri lead would hold steady throughout the second half, as the Longhorns never pulled within seven in the game’s final 16:10.
In addition to 23 points apiece from English and Pressey, senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe (18) and junior guard Mike Dixon (10) finished in double digits. Ratliffe also hauled in 14 rebounds in addition to blocking three shots, tying his season high.
Notably absent from those in double figures was the team’s leading scorer, senior guard Marcus Denmon. The Kansas City native came into Friday’s contest averaging more than 18 points per game, but did not make a field goal, going 0-for-10 from the field. His lone two points came from the free-throw line.
Missouri finished the game 10-of-22 from deep. It was the 12th time this season the Tigers converted at least 10 shots from outside.
Junior guard J’Covan Brown led the Longhorns with both 21 points and eight rebounds.
“We came to Kansas City to take care of business, and we’re in the position where we expected to be,” English said.