Tigers outlast Baylor, 90-75
By Kaveh Kaghazi
Missouri Tigers center Steve Moore (32) and Missouri Tigers guard Kim English celebrate after winning the Big 12 Championship tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
As Missouri’s final Big 12 game came to a close and its tournament championship was all but sealed, chants of “SEC! SEC!” rang through the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The No. 5 Tigers overcame two potentially devastating injuries to seniors Kim English and Marcus Denmon, holding off Baylor, 90-75 Saturday night.
Less than 24 hours after guard Marcus Denmon sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game against Texas, Denmon took the floor Saturday and showed no ill-effects from the injury, scoring nine of Missouri’s first 18 points.
“The difference a day makes,” Denmon said. “Yesterday in the game, I couldn’t walk.”
After scoring a combined 50 points on 20-for-23 shooting through the tournament’s first two contests, English faced adversity coming into Saturday’s final due to a right thigh bruise suffered against Texas. Wearing a large brace on his thigh, English powered through the injury, scoring a game-high 19 points, on his way to being named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
“Kimmie works as hard as anybody I know and he wants it as bad as anybody I know,” junior Michael Dixon said.
Each time Baylor made a push, English answered. The senior connected five 3-pointers, including three momentum-swinging shots in the second half every time Baylor seemed poised for a comeback.
“[English] really carried us,” Denmon said. “I’ve been with him for four years and he’s a brother of mine and just to see him go out on top in terms of Big 12 play is great.”
The heavy contingent of Missouri fans at Sprint Center fans showered boos on Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas as he handed the Big 12 tournament trophy to Missouri coach Frank Haith.
Missouri (30-4) held the lead from start to finish, taking home its first Big 12 conference tournament trophy since 2009. Haith took a moment to reflect on the win after the game.
“How you handle adversity will determine how successful you’re going to be,” Haith said. I think this team had a never quit attitude and stayed true to the course.”
Denmon sat in the locker room after the game with this shoes off and his ankle heavily taped.
“It’s throbbing…but it’s worth it,” Denmon said. “It’s worth it to be able to win this Big 12 title as a senior captain, this being my team and my home city. My guys out there battling, going to war with each other and coming out victorious is really special for us.”
Five Tigers scored in double-figures Saturday. Senior Ricardo Ratliffe scored 15 points, and Dixon poured in 17 off the bench as Missouri finished the game shooting close to 54 percent, compared to Baylor’s 39 percent. Missouri sophomore Phil Pressey had 15 points and added eight assists and five rebounds en route to being named to the Big 12 all-tournament team.
“Offensively, our team is so good and so…deep in offensive talent, you never know who it’s going to be,” English said.
Perry Jones led No. 11 Baylor with 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jones and teammate Brady Heslip were also named to the all-tournament team after the game. Heslip nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
Baylor’s size and 40-28 rebounding advantage failed to stifle Missouri, as the Tigers won their third game against the Bears this season. The focus now shifts to whether or not the Tigers will be a No. 1 in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers made a strong case in the Big 12 tournament, beating their opponents by an average of 15.5 points.
“We’ve had a great regular season,” Haith said. “That stuff will work itself out.”
The NCAA tournament selections and seedings will be announced Sunday. Mizzou Arena will be host to a NCAA Selection Show fan celebration starting at 4 p.m. The selection show airs at 5pm.
- All-Championship Team: Phil Pressey (MU), Perry Jones III (BU), Brady Heslip (BU), J’Covan Brown (UT), and MOP Kim English (MU)
- Missouri set a Big 12 Championship field goal percentage record with its combined 55.4 percent shooting from the floor in its three games.
- Missouri and Baylor combined for 165 points — the highest-scoring Big 12 Championship final.
- Coach Frank Haith became the first coach to win a Big 12 Championship in his first season with a school.