10 March 2012

Mizzou to Big 12: "S-E-C ya!"

Mizzou takes conference hardware as parting gift
by Mizzou Matt
KANSAS CITY, MO- For the second time in the Mizzou senior class' career, they found themselves facing Baylor for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament Championship. For the second time in their careers, they defeated Baylor for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament Championship. In 2009, they knocked off the Bears 73-60. Tonight, in front of a crowd heavily in favor of the Tigers, they walked away with a just as decisive 90-75 victory. The Tigers forced a turnover on Baylor's first possession, scored on their first possession, and never relinquished the lead.

Kim English, coming off a thigh contusion against Texas, jettisoned Mizzou (30-4) to their second Big 12 title with 19 points to lead all scorers. Ricardo Ratliffe fouled out with 4:04 to play, finished with 15 points. Marcus Denmon, who suffered through a rolled ankle against Texas and went 0/10 for 2 points, turned it around for 15 on 4/10 shooting, but a perfect 6/6 from the stripe. Phil "Flip" Pressey netted 15 of his own, while Michael Dixon, the 6th man yet again, contributed 17 off the bench. Matt Pressey and Steve Moore each chipped in 5 and 4 of their own, respectively, but Moore's statement dunk and a block on Baylor's next possession were huge as he replaced Ratliffe for the final 4:00 of the game. Jarrett Sutton, Andrew Jones and Andy Rosburg were not utilized in tonight's game.

Mizzou kept Baylor (27-7) at arm's length for most of the game, but after Ratliffe fouled out, the Bears started to claw their way back in, taking a 12 point deficit down to five. The parade of fouls to stop the clock are what did Baylor in toward the end, despite Flip missing the front end of consecutive 1-1's. Following those misses, Pressey nailed four straight to help clinch the win.

Perry Jones III led Baylor with 16, most of which came in the second half as he exploited Missouri's lack of height in the post. Brady Heslip, "The Canadian Sniper", scored 14 in the contest and Deuce Bello netted 13 off the bench. Pierre Jackson had 10, Quincy Acy with 7, Quincy Miller with 6, A.J. Walton scored 8 before fouling out late, and Anthony Jones scored a free throw to get into the stat book.

While Baylor struggled shooting, only 39.7% for the game, Mizzou torched the nylons for 53% (50% on the year) before cutting them down. The Tigers dominated in the 3-pt department, outshooting Baylor 42.9-26.3%. The Tigers also went 80% from the charity stripe.

In five games at the Sprint Center this season- Cal, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Baylor; the Tigers have gone an impressive 5-0, winning by a combined 115 points. The wins are highlighted even more so after Kansas University placed a billboard in Kansas City, emphasizing the first half of the city's name. Mizzou, however, had other plans.

After Baylor knocked Kansas out of the tourneys in the semifinals and later lost to Mizzou, Kim English had this to say: "This is OUR city. No one else's," poking fun at a comment Jayhawk head coach Bill Self said earlier this week.

"It's great. It's really great. Just...talk to the guys," said an emotional Frank Haith, who led the Tigers to their impressive year in just his first season. Haith will have coached in three different conferences in as many years starting next year as Mizzou makes the switch to the SEC.

Missouri's decisive victory raises some eyebrows, especially with three of Joe Lunardi's projected 1-seeds all losing in their respective conference tournaments. Kansas, Duke, and Syracuse were all knocked out of contention for the conference title, and it opens the door for teams like Missouri and Michigan State to move up in the brackets. Following in NC State's Mark Gottfried, English made a plea to ESPN's Lunardi...
Holly Rowe: "Kim, you analyze college basketball, what do you have to say about tonight's game?"
Kim English: "Joe Lunardi, make us a 1-seed."

The championship is just the icing on the cake for Mizzou, as fans started chanting "SEC! SEC! SEC!" with time winding down. After splitting the regular season with Kansas and having a stellar tournament performance, it was their championship to lose. They carried their momentum from game to game, and capped it off with something that will likely linger as a bad taste in the remaining Big 12's collective mouth.

Thanks for the trophy, Chuck [Neinas], now if you'll excuse us...hello Mark Slive.

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