OKLAHOMA CITY—Missouri and Oklahoma State both had reason to celebrate before facing each other in the Big 12 semi-final on Thursday night.
They will both be back in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cowboys are about to snap a three year drought from the big dance. For the Tigers, the road has been a little bit longer, and had a few more bumps. Mizzou hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since the 2003 season.
On a night of poor shooting by both teams, Missouri made a few more baskets, and is a step closer to a Big 12 Tournament Championship.
“I think these guys have paid a price and you are seeing the rewards,” said Missouri coach Mike Anderson following their 67-59 win over the Cowboys.
Before this season’s Big 12 Tournament, it had been three years since the Tigers won any kind of post-season basketball game.
“Coach put a lot of stress on us to lead,” said senior Leo Lyons of this year’s team. “Seeing last year and going through that, and going through the ups and downs, taught me how to be a better leader, when it’s time to speak up, and when it's time to show your actions.”
Missouri had a first-round bye, thus a built-in advantage over the Cowboys. The Tigers were the only top four seed that survived Thursday’s second round.
“If we were making shots you don’t think about being tired,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford, “when you start missing as many shots as we did, we started thinking about being tired.”
Regardless of the Cowboys loss, OSU has played it's best basketball down the stretch in winning eight of its last 10 games.
“I’m very high on this team right now,” Ford said, “that doesn’t have anything to do with this game, really, why I’m high on this team.”
It was one of those games and Missouri won.
The Tigers triumph includes winning 15 of 17 games and makes them another Big 12 team that has a hot streak heading into the NCAA Tournament.
“It is special, but I think it can really, really get special,” Anderson said.
No matter what happens tomorrow night, Missouri and Oklahoma State basketball is back.
They’re the hottest Big 12 teams heading into the NCAA Tournament.