March 13, 2009

Survive and Advance: Pokes tackle Mizzou in semis

Oklahoma State finally got over the hump against Oklahoma.

Now the Cowboys look for a little revenge against Missouri.

OSU is in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2007, when the Pokes went up against Texas and lost a 69-64 heartbreaker. The 7th-seeded Pokes (22-10) take on the No. 3 seed Tigers (26-6) at approximately 8:30 p.m. inside Ford Center in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised by the Big 12 Network.

Just like last night erased a lot of past pain for the Cowboys, a win tonight over Mizzou would erase some recent heartache against the boys from Columbia. In the only meeting between the two this year, the Tigers escaped Stillwater with a 97-95 win after holding a 15-point lead with four minutes to go. The Cowboys made a furious finish but it wasn't enough to make up for the mistakes committed before that point. Mizzou's DeMarre Carroll and Matt Lawrence each scored 19 points for the Tigers, while Obi Muonelo had a great game for OSU, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris both had 21 while James Anderson had 17.

But that meeting was back in January, when OSU was still trying to right the ship. Mizzou has had a great season this year the whole way, but they'll face a much improved Cowboy team tonight. The Tigers come into this one after downing Texas Tech, 81-60. That was their first win at the Big 12 since 2005. This game was tight in the first half, with both sides trading shots and going into halftime tied 31-31. But Mizzou roared to life in the second frame, jumping out to an 11-point lead only four minutes after intermission. After that, they ran away from the 11th-seeded Red Raiders, never falling below a lead of nine points the rest of the way. Carroll scored 19 points, while Lawrence and J.T. Tiller both had 13. MU shot 55 percent on the evening, but only 65 percent from the free throw line.

This should be a very interesting matchup. Both teams size up against each other well and OSU has a shot to erase the poor opening they threw out there against Mizzou back in Stillwater. In that one, the Pokes fell down 16 points in the first half, leaving them a hole to fight out of the rest of the way.

After that game, OSU head coach Travis Ford voiced his displeasure with the performance.

"I don't think we were mentally prepared," Ford said. "We came out and did things defensively we thought we had corrected in the first week of practice, like guys running into each other and giving up too many layups. We talked about not turning it over for the last three days and the first play of the game we turn it over. That's just mental mistakes. We were playing catch-up all night."

In that game, OSU committed 19 turnovers and its defense was porous all night long. Things have improved on the D side in the past month, so it will be interesting to see how the Pokes handle Carroll and Co. this time around. Another interesting item will be how OSU plays after such an emotional win in Bedlam III. Games like that tend to suck all the energy out of you, so the Tigers could benefit from the Cowboys and Sooners waging battle last night. But on the other hand, OSU has been on quiet the roll lately, with the win last night overturning the only blemish the team has suffered in the past few weeks. If Mizzou is to win, they'll have to basically play on the road, as the Ford crowd should be very partisan toward the orange and black. Either way, this game is a challenge for both teams and the winner could be the favorite to win the conference tournament title on Saturday.

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