Following a Wednesday night victory over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State seemed out of gas, and No. 5 Missouri wouldn’t let off it.
The Tigers (28-4) ran up and down the court at a blistering pace in Thursday night’s second-round Big 12 Conference Tournament game at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, drubbing the Cowboys by an 88-70 final.
The Tigers advanced to the Big 12 Tournament semifinals, where they will take on the Texas Longhorns for a third time this season. Missouri has already recorded two victories over Texas, who advanced to the semifinals with a 71-65 victory over Iowa State on Thursday.
Oklahoma State went scoreless for a stretch of 6:01 in the first half, allowing for a 17-0 Missouri run.
As the adage goes, when it rains, it pours, and Oklahoma State was umbrella-less.
The 17-0 Missouri run blossomed into a 43-18 run to end the half, led by senior forward Kim English’s 21 points and sophomore point guard Phil Pressey’s eight assists.
“I’ve always felt in a tournament, when you play a team that played the night before, you have a tendency to not really be ready to play and these guys really fought hard against that,” coach Frank Haith said.
Missouri took a 49-24 lead to halftime on the heels of 55 percent shooting. The Tigers held a 26-10 advantage on the glass and sophomore point guard Phil Pressey had eight assists, two more than the MU record for assists in a Big 12 tournament game. Pressey also had five steals.
“I usually just try to pressure the ball as best I can, and this game I came away with some steals, so I mean I’m just playing defense how I know to play,” Pressey said.
The 49 points in the first half were two points shy of a Missouri Big 12 Tournament record for points in a half.
“We had tremendous ball movement. Good ball movement relives the tension of the offense — that’s (former Princeton coach) Pete Carroll,” English said, winking toward Haith.
In fact, Missouri’s 88 points was just one short of the program’s tournament mark of 89, set in a 1997 matchup with Oklahoma. Despite the offensive prowess (Missouri shot 59 percent on the game), Haith was most impressed with his team’s defensive performance.
“It was all about our defense,” Haith said. “We were able to get some loose balls.”
Despite senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe playing only 23 minutes, the Tigers amassed 52 points in the paint, thanks in large part to the transition buckets created by the Tigers’ fast pace.
“I like to think of us being a team that can put pressure on the defense by attacking the paint,” Haith said.
A 14-3 Oklahoma State run spurred by 7-of-8 shooting pulled the Cowboys within 15 with 5:26 remaining.
But a brilliant pass through traffic from junior guard Michael Dixon found Ratliffe wide open under the basket for an easy layup, and Oklahoma State would never get closer.
Friday’s victory was Missouri’s third of the year in the Sprint Center. During November’s CBE Classic, Missouri first appeared on the national radar, defeating Notre Dame and then-No. 18 California by a combined 68 points.
“We reminded our guys how well we played here,” Haith said. “I think our guys are comfortable being here in this building because we have had an opportunity to play here earlier in the year.”
English led all scorers with 27 points, while senior guard Marcus Denmon chipped in 24 of his own. Senior guard Keiton Page had 22 for Oklahoma State.
“We really came into this game focusing on energy and defense,” English said. “We really came out with a concerted effort to defend and that starts with Phil up top. I mean, he was getting on-the-ball steals and it was a track meet from there.”