Missouri takes over first place in the Big 12

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Missouri’s Michael Dixon drives against Oklahoma’s Casey Arent during the first half Monday in Norman, Okla. Missouri won 71-68. (Alonzo Adams ~ Associated Press)

NORMAN, Okla. -- The focus of No. 4 Missouri was tested between an emotionally charged victory against archrival Kansas and a top 10 showdown with Baylor.

The Tigers got a passing grade -- barely.

Marcus Denmon scored 25 points, Ricardo Ratliffe added 15 points and 10 rebounds and No. 4 Mizzou claimed first place in the Big 12 by edging Oklahoma 71-68 on Monday night.

"We understand that this game was just as important as the last one," Denmon said. "Pretty much, we have a veteran group and we just wanted to make sure everybody came out and understood how important this game would be for us to play after a big win like the one at home against Kansas."

Missouri coach Frank Haith required his players to report to a hotel by 2 a.m. after their late-night victory against the then-No. 8 Jayhawks, trying to temper the celebration and get a head start on a road game less than 48 hours later against an opponent they had beaten by 38 points earlier this season.

Missouri’s Kim English, front, and Ricardo Ratliffe, back, help Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger up after he missed a potential game-tying shot at the end of Monday’s game in Norman, Okla.
Alonzo Adams
Associated Press

Asked whether it was the right move, Denmon and Ratliffe looked at each other and didn't say a word.

Finally, Denmon answered and got a pat on the back from his first-year coach.

"Whether I wanted to go to the hotel or not, I understood," Denmon said. "I understood that it was a good decision by coach, and it seems like it helped us."

The Tigers host Baylor on Saturday.

Oklahoma (13-10, 3-8) still had the ball with a chance to tie with 5 seconds left. Romero Osby was fouled with 2.5 seconds left and missed both free throws, and Steven Pledger missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer when the offensive rebound was tapped back to him.

Missouri's Michael Dixon (11) goes to the basket as Oklahoma's Casey Arent (32) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Pledger slumped to the ground and put his hands over his face after his potential tying shot clanged off the rim to end the game.

"It was perfect. The play was designed to miss the free throw and get the tip-out, and we actually got the tip-out," said Pledger, who led Oklahoma with 22 points.

"It was on line. It felt good when it left my hand. It didn't go in."

Sam Grooms had a career-high 17 points and matched his career-best with 10 assists.

Michael Dixon chipped in 13 points for Missouri.

Missouri guard Marcus Denmon shoots in front of Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark during the first half. Denmon led the Tigers with 25 points.

The Tigers (22-2, 9-2) moved a half-game ahead of No. 6 Baylor and No. 7 Kansas in the standings. Those teams meet Wednesday night for a chance to pull even with Missouri.

This one was nothing like Oklahoma's previous meeting with Missouri, won 87-49 by the Tigers on their home court. Missouri held a 15-rebound advantage in that one, but Oklahoma came out ahead 36-22 on the boards Monday.

The Tigers made up for it by holding a 28-12 scoring edge in the paint and getting the only 10 fast-break points of the game.

"There's no question you had to fight against all of that -- the emotional win, and then you have a game at your place where you just played incredible and they didn't play their best game," Haith said.

"So you get a false sense. You worry about that false sense of what it's going to be like when they get here."

Missouri's Kim English, front, and Ricardo Ratliffe, back, help Oklahoma's Steven Pledger up after he reacts to missing the game winning shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012. Missouri won 71-68. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Pledger's 3-pointer pulled the Sooners within 66-64 with 3 minutes, 33 seconds to play.

Denmon followed with a jumper from the right side with 2 seconds left on the shot clock before Grooms and Pledger both went 1 for 2 at the free-throw line to get Oklahoma back within two.

Kim English then hit a 3-pointer from the right side off Phil Pressey's seventh assist to provide what proved to be the game-winner with 53.6 seconds left.

Andrew Fitzgerald hit two free throws for Oklahoma with 41.6 seconds remaining, and Dixon missed on a drive to the basket to give the Sooners their last chance with 5 seconds left.

"We never let them take the lead, and that was a sign of a good team," Haith said. "I think once they made runs, we executed when we needed to make a shot."

Oklahoma connected on its first six shots and 8 of 10 to get out to a 17-12 lead. Missouri scored the final six points of the first half for a 36-33 lead.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: