By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sprint Center (18,555) -- Kansas City, Missouri Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Texas 15-3, Missouri 16-1. Away Record: Texas 4-7, Missouri 7-3. Neutral Record: Texas 1-2, Missouri 5-0. Conference Record: Texas 11-3, Missouri 14-4. Series Record: Missouri leads, 13-12.
GAME NOTES: The sixth-seeded Texas Longhorns will try to bolster their resume tonight as they take on the second-seeded Missouri Tigers in the semifinal round of the 2012 Big 12 Conference Tournament at the Sprint Center.
The fifth-ranked Tigers will try to down Texas for the third time this season. Missouri picked up an 84-73 victory over the Longhorns on Jan. 14 before stealing a 67-66 win on Jan. 30 in Austin. Missouri will have to do a better job of containing J'Covan Brown to down Texas yet again. Brown has averaged 27.0 ppg versus Missouri in the two contests.
Texas was in a do-or-die scenario entering the quarterfinal round on Thursday. The Longhorns went into halftime trailing the third-seeded Iowa State Cyclones, 29-25, after shooting just 26.3 percent from the floor in the opening period. Coach Rick Barnes managed to inspire his squad at halftime which led to a 46-point scoring output on 50 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes to give Texas a 71-65 victory. The Longhorns improved their standing in the race for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, but they would cement a spot for themselves with a win tonight. Texas will be able to challenge Missouri once again if it can carry over its hot second half shooting from Thursday and continue to keep turnovers to a minimum.
Brown led the Longhorns and the Big 12 in scoring this season with an average of 20.1 ppg. The junior guard went 7-of-19 from the floor to score 23 points versus Iowa State. Despite struggling with his shot, Brown stayed confident and converted a go-ahead three-point play in the final minute to keep the Longhorns alive. Myck Kabongo and Clint Chapman also scored in double-figures to take pressure off of Brown.
Missouri (28-4) still has hope to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers' back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Kansas in late February ending up costing them a chance at the Big 12 regular season title. With the program set leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference at the season's end, the Tigers will try to reel off two wins in a row to win their second Big 12 Conference Tournament and go out with a bang. Missouri is one of the top offensive teams in the NCAA, as it averages 80.0 ppg on 50.2 percent shooting from the floor. The Tigers displayed their offensive firepower in their 88-70 victory over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Missouri connected on 59.3 percent of their shots and outrebounded the Cowboys, 40-20, to advance to the semifinals.
The Tigers will hope their guard Kim English can keep up with UT's Brown in this one. English has been on fire lately, as he ended the regular season with 20 points versus Texas Tech before going 11-of-13 from the floor to tally 27 points versus Oklahoma State to open the postseason. Mizzou's leading scorer, Marcus Denmon, was nearly as impressive versus the Cowboys, as he scored 24 points in the win. The Tigers have benefited from Phil Pressey's distributing abilities all season, as he established a new single-season program record for assists in just his second year. Ricardo Ratliffe is the top forward for the team. The senior big man chipped in 11 points and six rebounds in the decisive victory over OSU.
Missouri is without a doubt one of the top teams in the NCAA. The Tigers have an array of offensive weapons and seem to be picking up steam at the perfect time. Brown and the Longhorns were close to an upset of Missouri in their last encounter. Texas kept it close in that contest by dominating on the glass, which it will need to go again to prevent the Tigers from any extra opportunities.