Tigers survive quick turnaround after emotional game on Saturday
By The Associated Press
NORMAN, Okla. — Marcus Denmon scored 25 points, Ricardo Ratliffe added 15 points and 10 rebounds and No. 4 Missouri claimed first place in the Big 12 by edging Oklahoma 71-68 on Monday night.
Oklahoma (13-10, 3-8) 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.
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.
Pledger led Oklahoma with 22 points and Sam Grooms had a career-high 17 points and 10 assists.
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. He stayed on the floor until two Missouri players and teammate Barry Honore came over to lift him up.
The Tigers barely survived the challenge of refocusing for a road game less than 48 hours after an emotionally charged win in their rivalry game against Kansas put them in a tie for first place. Coach Frank Haith even put them in a team hotel and enforced a curfew after the Border Showdown win to try to keep them in a controlled environment.
In Norman, they found a half-full Lloyd Noble Center and a student section with dozens of empty seats that had newspapers draped over the backs that the occupants would usually hold up during pregame introductions.
It still got loud when the Sooners pulled within 66-64 after Pledger’s 3-pointer from the left side with 3:33 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 Michael Dixon missed on a drive to the basket to give Oklahoma one last chance with 5 seconds left.
It was a nothing like the teams’ previous meeting, 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 on Monday.
The Tigers made up for it by holding a 28-12 scoring edge the paint and getting the only 10 fast-break points of the game.
Dixon scored 13 points for Missouri. Fitzgerald added 12 for the Sooners.
Oklahoma connected on its first six shots, and eight of 10 to get out to a 17-12 lead before Missouri surged back with seven straight points to take its first lead. The Sooners had an answer a few minutes later, getting two jumpers from Fitzgerald and a 3 by Pledger to go back up 29-23 with 5:27 left before halftime.
But as hot as Oklahoma started from the field, it was equally cold at the foul line — missing all seven of its free throws in the first half.
The Tigers finally took charge, scoring the final six points of the first half and the first six of the second to build a 42-33 lead after Denmon’s three free throws.
Dixon’s jumper from the right side of the key gave Missouri a momentary 10-point lead before Pledger hit consecutive 3-pointers to get the crowd involved, and Oklahoma was within 55-52 on Grooms’ jumper from the right wing with 12 minutes left.
The Sooners came up empty on three possessions with the chance to tie it, and Matt Pressey and Dixon provided consecutive layups to create a little distance for the Tigers.
The Tigers face Baylor again Saturday, this time at Mizzou Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.