Beware the Phog: Kansas erases 19-point deficit to stun Missouri in overtime

Michael Dixon dropped to the floor after Missouri failed to get a shot off on its final possession of overtime. (Photo: Andrew Mitchell | Columbia Missourian)

LAWRENCE, Kan. – While Thomas Robinson was the one to extend the game at the end of regulation with a three-point play and a blocked shot, it was Tyshawn Taylor who ended it, sinking a pair of free throws to give no. 5 Kansas an 87-86 overtime victory over no. 3 Missouri Saturday evening in Lawrence. The victory guarantees KU at least a share of their 12th Big 12 Title.

“It was a great ball game,” coach Frank Haith said after the game. “I thought our guys played their hearts out, competed and we did what we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

Saturday’s OT thriller served as a fitting end to the “conference” chapter of the 105-year-old rivalry and left fans from both sides craving more.

“This game meant a lot to both schools and both teams. This maybe the last time we play; I think that would be sad,” Haith said. “You saw the atmosphere out here today and the atmosphere at our place, it’d be sad if we don’t play. I just don’t understand it and hopefully we can continue to play. This is too good of a game and too good of a rivalry to not play.”

For Mizzou, everything was going according to plan. They opened the second half with a 14-7 run, capped off by a Marcus Denmon three, to build a 19-point lead with 16 minutes left.

Unfortunately, an anomaly that has plagued this team throughout most of the season re-surfaced and ultimately cost them a crucial win. Rather than continue to run their offense and attack the Jayhawks’ interior defense, the Tigers started to settle for quick jump shots giving their opponents a chance to hang around.

“We took some quick shots in that stretch [during the second half],” Haith said. “I think we took a couple of contested threes when we didn’t have to. All we had to do was continue to run our offense; and I thought our offense’s execution was outstanding.”

Connor Teahan watches as Phil Pressey goes up for a shot. Pressey scored eight points before fouling out in the final seconds of overtime. (Photo: Andrew Mitchell | Columbia Missourian)

The Jayhawks capitalized on Missouri’s offensive struggles, outscoring the Tigers 36-17 over the final 16 minutes of the second half to send the game into overtime.

“They shot 33 free throws and a lot of those came in the second half,” Denmon said. “When you are living at the free throw line, you are scoring while the clock is stopped; it is easy to chip a lead away. That’s what Kansas did and they hit free throws when they needed.”

While 12 of KU’s 33 free throws did come in the second half, it was the one hit by Robinson at the end of regulation that was the most significant.

Down by three with 20 seconds left, Robinson passed the ball to Elijah Johnson, which drew two Missouri defenders out of position. Johnson quickly bounced the ball back to Robinson, who not only hit the layup, but also drew enough contact from Michael Dixon to earn the chance at a three-point play to tie the game.

“It was a big play; it was definitely huge,” Robinson said. “I just knew that I had to get the ball off the glass and that is all I tried to do. He came up from under me at the last second.”

That game-tying shot from Robinson still left an opportunity for Missouri to win in regulation and with 10 seconds left, the Tigers cleared the lane for sophomore Phil Pressey, but the 6-10 Robinson came over and stuffed Pressey’s lay-up attempt.

“Phil [Pressey] got in the lane. We are on the road so we knew we probably wouldn’t get a call. We were just trying to get a good look at the basket,” Denmon said. “I thought that Phil might have been getting bumped into the lane and then Thomas [Robinson] came and he got the block to send it into overtime.”

Denmon celebrates after hitting a shot late in the game against Kansas. (Photo: Andrew Mitchell | Columbia Missourian)

After KU responded to a three-pointer from Denmon with a dunk from Taylor with 28 seconds left, Missouri turned to Denmon, who hit a circus jump shot with 12 seconds left to give them a one-point lead.

The Tigers were slow getting back, however, which led to Pressey getting called for his fifth foul of the game, this one against Taylor.

“We have to go score and get a good shot, but get it as fast as possible,” Taylor said. “I just put my head down and saw a little seam and just attacked. I got bumped a little earlier, but they called it on the shot. I got fouled and I made the free throws.”

With Pressey out of the game and just eight seconds remaining, Haith looked to Dixon to get the ball down the floor and give Missouri a chance to win. Dixon completed part one, but rather than look for one of his teammates, he tried to drive past a KU defender before passing the ball off to Denmon as time expired.

“It was a handoff ball screen,” Haith explained. “Marcus [Denmon] was supposed to get it and we just didn’t get him the ball.”

While Dixon’s lapse ultimately cost the Tigers a chance to win the game at the end of overtime, his teammates did their best not to let him get too down on himself.

“We just told him to keep his head up and continue to play,” Denmon said. “This was a really important game for us and it hurts, but we have a lot of basketball left and our best basketball is yet to be played.”

(Photo: Andrew Mitchell | Columbia Missourian)

In terms of scoring, Denmon and Robinson each scored 28 to lead all scorers. Denmon hit 10 of 15 shots from the floor for Missouri, who shot 46.2% from the floor as a team. The Tigers actually out-rebounded the Jayhawks 36-32, led by Ricardo Ratliffe who finished with 12 rebounds and 22 points.  Kim English was the only other Missouri player to score in double figures with 11.

“We have played pretty good all year. This team has been pretty resilient. I thought our defense was good in the first half; I thought we executed,” Haith said. “Looking at the numbers, we made more field goals tonight and outrebounded them; I thought we played pretty well tonight there is no question about that.”

Missouri will look to regroup Wednesday night against Iowa State. A victory against the Cyclones would guarantee the Tigers a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.

Tip-off from Mizzou Arena is scheduled for 7 pm.

-AND NOW THIS!-

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Now that we’ve all had some time to digest Saturday’s loss, here are my thoughts on the game:

-For starters, that first half was probably the most impressive half of basketball we’ve seen from this team all season. They were composed. They were hitting shots. They looked amazing. I’ll be honest, I was surprised by how well they dealt with the hostile environment that was Phog Allen Fieldhouse. I was telling my dad the other day that the environment in Lawrence would be unlike anything anyone had ever seen. I was right about that, but I was wrong about how the Tigers would respond. Credit to Frank and the boys for being locked in and ready to play Saturday afternoon.

Don’t blame Saturday’s loss on the officials. That’s a lame excuse for what was a poor second half performance from Missouri. Yes, a few calls could have gone their way late in the game. However, the same can be said from the Kansas side about that game in Columbia. So, if you’re walking around twirling your Tiger tail, moaning about the officials, stop it.

Loved the effort by Haith to get Ricardo Ratliffe involved early and often. Having him involved on offense from the opening tip definitely helped Mizzou pad that lead early in the second half.

-While it didn’t show up on the stat sheet, Steve Moore had a great game for Missouri. He pulled down seven rebounds, many of which came in key situations late in the game and he stayed out of foul trouble. “Steeeeve” is undoubtedly the most improved player on this team.

-I think Phil Pressey might just be Missouri’s most valuable player. For starters, he showed a lot more poise on the final possession of regulation than Dixon did at the end of overtime. One would think that if Phil was the one running that final play, things would have turned out differently for Missouri.

-That is by no means a shot at Dixon, who I think deserves National Sixth Man of the Year. He’s a great player and a lot of fun to watch. However, he has been trying to do too much lately. He throws up haphazard shots and sometimes loses control as he goes up for lay-ups. Not to say Pressey isn’t vulnerable to the same sort of mistakes, but the timing of Dixon’s mistakes seems to make them stand out a lot more than Phil’s.

I don’t understand why this team randomly reverts to its “Fastest Forty Minutes” roots in the middle of games. It’s frustrating. They went from performing at peak efficiency through the first 25 minutes of the game, to settling for jumpers and contested threes for basically the rest of the game. Not sure it’s as much coaching by Haith as it is lapses in judgment by the players.

Quote of the night:

“The atmosphere had nothing to do with it. We lost the game. We fought hard to win, but this loss doesn’t define our season. It is a loss that we really wanted; we really wanted to win the league. We came out and competed and fought hard, we just weren’t fortunate enough to come up with the win. This isn’t football. We are not out of the national championship running with a regular season loss. We will learn from this and watch film tomorrow or Monday and fix what we need to do down the stretch to finish games and grow. We grew today from the Kansas State game. That was just another step in our growth to get to where we want to be.”-Kim English

English and I didn’t get along too well when I covered this team for The Maneater, but I do respect his candor, especially after tough losses like this.

 

Quotes via KU Athletics Department

 

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Back on top: No. 4 Missouri grabs Big 12 lead with 71-68 victory in Norman

Image via: Kansas City Star

NORMAN, Okla. – Playing less than 48 hours after their dramatic victory over then-no. 8 Kansas on Saturday, the no. 4 Missouri Tigers got all they could handle from the Oklahoma Sooners, barely escaping with a 71-68 victory.

“It wasn’t our best basketball, but on the road in the Big 12 it’s not always going to be pretty and not easy,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said after the game. “Our guys found a way to rip one out on the road, executed when we needed to, and got stops when we needed to. It was a great road win for us.”

To the surprise of many, if not all the 7,994 fans in attendance, Monday night’s game came down to the final possession. Oklahoma had the ball with a chance to tie with five seconds left, but Romero Osby missed both free throws before Steven Pledger missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer when the offensive rebound was tapped back to him.

“It was perfect,” Pledger said. “The play was designed to miss the free throw and get the tip-out and we actually got the tip-out. It was on line; it felt good when it left my hand. It didn’t go in.”

With the win, Missouri move a half-game ahead of no. 6 Baylor and no. 7 Baylor in the Big 12 standings. The Bears and Jayhawks will meet in Waco on Wednesday with the opportunity to pull even with the Tigers on the line.

“OU is a really good team and they’re even better at home,” senior Ricardo Ratliffe said. “College basketball is all about making runs. So when they got on that run, Coach called that timeout and we discussed how to get some shots. That’s what we tried to do.”

Mizzou led by as many as 10 points early in the second half, but were unable to drive the final stake into the coffin, allowing OU to make it a two point game twice in the final four minutes of the game.

Seniors Marcus Denmon and Kim English answered both times for Missouri, however, hitting clutch shots to put the Tigers back in control. Denmon’s 14-foot jumper pushed Mizzou’s lead back to four points with just under three minutes left, before English’s three-pointer sealed the victory with 59 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.”

Ricardo Ratliffe recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but it was Denmon who led all scorers with 25 points. The senior guard hit nine of 16 shots from the field and four of nine from behind the arc for the Tigers.

Since going three for 12 with six points against Texas on January 30, Denmon has been on absolute fire, hitting 19 of 32 shots for 54 points over his last two games.

“I’ve just been continuing to work, me and my teammates, and I’ve been shooting the same shots that I’ve been shooting,” Denmon said. “I was just fortunate enough to make some of those the last couple of games.”

Oklahoma, who entered the game shooting 74.6% from the free throw line, hit just nine of 23 free throws against Missouri, including just four of eight in the final two minutes of the game.

“It is hard to explain because we have shot free throws very well,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “It happened kind of with everyone it seemed. As a team we have shot it well all year. It’s a hard thing to explain missing those early ones. It got a little contagious, perhaps. Again, it was just bad timing for that.”

Missouri will return to action Saturday afternoon in what could be a battle for first place in the Big 12 against the no. 6 Baylor Bears. Tip-off at Mizzou Arena is scheduled for 12:30.

Odds and ends:

-With a three-point lead and just five seconds left in the game, it was definitely a smart move by Frank Haith to have his players foul as soon as the Sooners advanced the ball past mid-court. Statistically, an argument could be made against fouling in that situation (they’re second only to Missouri in FT%; 29th in the nation), but OU was struggling mightily from charity stripe Monday night, so there was no reason not to foul them under those circumstances. Here is what coach Haith had to say about Oklahoma’s final possession:

“We wanted to foul them and then they missed the first free throw. Heck of a play by their kid to tip it out to (Steven) Pledger, but we did foul.”

-Nice job by the Tigers to avoid falling victim to the bear trap that was Oklahoma.

-Don’t read into tonight’s victory. Same would have been said if they lost. Tonight’s game mattered (in the standings), but it didn’t (trying to learn more about this team).

-Marcus Denmon…he’s baaaaaaack! Shooting combined 19 of 32 for 54 points over his last two games? Yeah, that KU game wasn’t a fluke after all.

-Nice to see Kim English step up for the Tigers. His three-pointer from the corner with 59 seconds left sealed the deal for Missouri.

Player of the game: Marcus Denmon

Duh.

 

Quotes via Sooners Athletics

Know Your Enemy: No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks

The no. 4 Missouri Tigers and no. 8 Kansas Jayhawks will tip off at 8 pm on Saturday evening at Mizzou Arena in what is one of the most anticipated basketball games of the season.

Setting the scene

KU is coming off an 84-72 victory over Oklahoma Wednesday night in Lawrence. Tyshawn Taylor led all scorers with 21 points, but the biggest story of the night was the performance from forward Thomas Robinson. Robinson, who is averaging a double-double per game this season, racked up 20 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for the Jay Birds who improved to 8-1 inside the Big 12 and 18-4 overall.

As a team, Kansas shot 55.4% from the floor, but just 30% (six of 20) from behind the arc. They also dominated the Sooners under the basket, outscoring them 46-20 in the paint. 

While the Jayhawks are not nearly as dominant as they have been in year’s past, they are still a top 10 team. KU is a strong shooting team hitting about 48% of their shots, while averaging 75.6 points per game.

Statistically speaking, the margin between these two teams is minuscule.

With two so evenly matched teams, the outcome of this game will come down to who can hit their stride first.

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The Full Court Press-January 31 (Vahe Gregorian)

Vahe Gregorian (@VGregorian) re-joins the Full Court Press to talk about Mizzou’s victory over Texas, Marcus Denmon’s struggles, Frank Haith’s coaching ability, his favorite Big 12 destinations, no. 8 Kansas, and much more.

Listen to full interview here: FCP-January 31

On Marcus Denmon’s recent struggles:

“I don’t feel like it’s as much in his head as it’s just literally in his form. Maybe those two things go together so much it’s hard to discern the difference, but I really feel like you can look at his shot: the arc is flat, he’s not getting a lot of lift, [and] quite often the ball is short…I think this really clearly looks in mechanics right now.”

Flaws (other than height) this team has:

“We’ve gotten a little spoiled. You know, they’re 20-2 and we’re so used to winning games by 25-28 points, that now we’re critiquing games on the road at Texas. So, that really speaks well if that’s where we are on them.”

Haith’s time management late in games Question via Steve McGuire (@DUBMCG):

“I had the impression that against Illinois he wanted to see his players play themselves out of it, but I think it required a timeout…Oklahoma State might have also been a game to catch it and stop it a couple of times, but by-in-large I think he’s had pretty good judgment on that.”

HSB will have full coverage of national signing day tomorrow morning, starting with Dorial Green-Beckham’s announcement at 9:15 AM.

 

Dixon comes off the bench to lead no. 4 Missouri to victory in Austin

Michael Dixon led all scorers with 21 points. His basket with 31 seconds left gave Mizzou its 66-65 victory over Texas on Monday night. (Associated Press)

AUSTIN, Texas – Michael Dixon went from the game’s goat to hero in the final 40 seconds of no. 4 Missouri’s 67-66 victory over Texas Monday night.

The Missouri guard was responsible for giving Texas its first lead since early in the first half after he was whistled for a flagrant foul with 1:10 left. The Longhorns capitalized on Dixon’s miscue, hitting both free throws and the basket on the ensuing possession to grab a 66-65 lead with 57 seconds left.

Dixon and the Tigers responded out of the Missouri timeout, however, slicing through the Longhorns’ defense for the eventual game-winning lay-up with 31 seconds left. That basket capped off a 21-point performance off the bench for Dixon, who hit nine of 10 shots from the field and one of two three-point attempts.

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Know your enemy: No. 3 Baylor Bears

The no. 5 Missouri Tigers will see where they stand among the upper echelon of Big 12 teams Saturday afternoon when they travel to Waco, Texas to take on the no. 3 Baylor Bears.

Baylor enters Saturday’s contest coming off of its first loss of the season, a 92-74 beating at the hands of the no. 7 Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence. It was a solid performance overall for the Bears, who were simply overmatched by the Jayhawks.

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