By The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — They know they’ll never win a Big 12 regular-season championship. A one-point overtime loss at Kansas last month settled that.
So as the No. 5 Missouri Tigers head out the door to the Southeastern Conference, they’re chasing the Big 12 tournament title as a way of waving a not-so-fond farewell to Big 12 brethren resentful of the way they helped turn the conference upside down.
Thursday night, Oklahoma State paid the price.
Kim English scored 21 of his 27 points in the first 20 minutes and set in motion the Tigers’ 88-70 thrashing in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
“We want this as bad as we wanted the Big 12,” said English, who’s been engaging Kansas coach Bill Self and Kansas fans in verbal back-and-fourth jousting this week. “That’s why our loss (at Kansas) hurt so bad. It was the Big 12 championship game. We just want to win a championship. It’s not a chip on our shoulder.”
English led a 26-5 first-half run, Marcus Denmon added 24 points and Phil Pressey had 12 assists, one short of a school record for the Tigers (28-4).
Many fans are hoping for a showdown with archrival and No. 3 Kansas in the title game Saturday.
“We are in Kansas City, Missouri,” said Denmon, a KC native. “This is home for me. Missouri fans come out well, too.”
The Tigers outrebounded the Cowboys (15-18) 40-20.
“We were slow motion,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “They were fast motion.”
The game-seizing run in the first half, Ford said, started with Missouri’s defense.
“Their defense was just stifling. They played with such great energy. We were tired. I could see it. They’re a veteran, experienced, physically tough basketball team. They might not be the tallest team, but they are a physical team. We’re just the opposite. We’re young. And they were playing to their strengths. Their defense led to offense.”
English had 21 of his points in the rapid-fire first half that ended with Missouri on top 49-24. Denmon, a two-time All-Big 12 guard, had 17 points in the second half.
Keiton Page had 22 points for Oklahoma State, and Brian Williams had 21.
“We fought adversity against one of the best teams in America that was playing great,” Ford said. “When they’re playing to their strength, there are not many teams better in this country.”
It was 6-all when English drilled a long 3-pointer and set the rout in motion as the Tiger overwhelmed one of the four teams that beat them in the regular season. English had 10 points in a 15-0 spree to take the Tigers to a 21-6 lead.
With 3:08 left in the half, English had 21 points and had personally outscored the Cowboys, who trailed 41-17 after English grabbed Matt Pressey’s pass and dropped it through the net for his ninth field goal. Phil Pressey at that point had eight assists and five steals in just six minutes.
Denmon, a two-time All-Big 12 guard, scored 13 straight points for the Tigers in the second half, getting a three-point play and then knocking in 3-point shots on each of the next two possessions to make it 70-41.
After Cezar Guerrero scored for the outclassed Cowboys, Denmon soared high to flush down a teammate’s miss and then, after an Oklahoma State miss, made it 74-43 with his ninth basket.
But then Page, the Cowboys’ career 3-point leader, hit two 3s and ignited a 17-3 counter punch by the Cowboys. Another 3-pointer from Page was followed by baskets from Marek Soucek and Guerrero, slicing it to 77-60 and prompting Missouri to call a timeout with 6:11 to go.
Thousands of fans, even some dressed in Kansas blue and Missouri gold, gave Page a standing ovation when he was removed from the game with 48 seconds to go.
By the end of the lopsided first half, Tigers fans were just leaning back and laughing. Andrew Jones, a tight end attending school on a football scholarship, drew a roar when he sank a free throw to make it 45-18. The 6-foot-5 senior had scored only four points all year after answering coach Frank Haith’s call for a big body to bang around and lend depth to a thin front line. Jones added another free throw with 40 seconds left.
Michael Dixon had 13 points for Missouri, which shot 66.7 percent in the first half and 59 percent for the game.
“Our intensity level was very high,” Haith said. “These guys fought hard.”