MU men's basketball team perfect at home

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | 11:46 p.m. CST; updated 7:05 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 5, 2009
Senior DeMarre Carroll hugs OU senior Taylor Griffin after the Tigers bested the Sooners 73-64 on Wednesday March 4 in Mizzou Arena. The game was Carroll's last home game as a student at MU.

*CORRECTION: Oklahoma is ranked No. 4 in the AP poll. An earlier version of this story used the ESPN/USA Today poll, where the Sooners are ranked No. 5. Under the Big 12 Conference tie-breaker rules, Missouri could only get a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament if there is a three-way tie for first. An earlier version of this story reported that the Tigers could earn a No. 1 seed under such a scenario. The last time Missouri beat a ranked team was in 2003, when it defeated Oklahoma. An earlier version of this story reported that such an event occurred in 2004.

COLUMBIA — After Sunday’s blowout loss at Kansas, Missouri coach Mike Anderson was quick to dismiss the notion that his team wouldn’t be able to bounce back on Senior Night against Oklahoma.

The Tigers proved their coach right Wednesday night and continued their dominance following losses this season with a convincing 73-64 upset win over the No. 4* Sooners in front of a sellout crowd at Mizzou Arena. The win moved the Tigers to 5-0 this season following a loss, with an average margin of victory of 30 points.

“After we lose the practices are so hard,” Lyons said. “We just work on defense, and we come out with a defensive mindset and nobody wants to do it again."

But this one figured to be a lot tougher than the first four, which came against Fairfield, SIU-Edwardsville, Colorado, and an underachieving Baylor team. Even at Mizzou Arena, a matchup with Oklahoma and National Player of the Year favorite Blake Griffin seemed like a daunting task following Missouri’s worst loss of the year, a 90-65 loss at Kansas.

But the Tigers jumped ahead from the start to hand Oklahoma its biggest loss of the season and cap a perfect 18-0 season at home. It was the first time the Tigers have gone undefeated at home since the 1993-94 season.

“The crowd was magnificent,” Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said. “Their students were in it. The thing that made it great was this team. They give them something to cheer about. They give them something to be excited about. This is so much better than it was when we were here two years ago.”

Missouri’s four seniors led their team to a 13-5 lead in the first four minutes, and the Sooners never got any closer than five points in the second half. It was the Tigers’ first victory over a top 5 team since they beat Oklahoma at the Hearnes Center in  2003*.

Missouri’s resiliency has even shown up in the second half of games this season. The Tigers have outscored their opponents in the last 20 minutes 10 of 14 times in Big 12 Conference play.

The only time they were outscored by more than three in the second half was in Stillwater, Okla., where Oklahoma State’s furious comeback in the last five minutes fell just short in a 97-95 Missouri win. The Tigers clearly had more energy than the Sooners in the last five minutes Wednesday.

“I thought (fatigue) was big,” Anderson said. “At one point in time, they just stopped play and no one called timeout. I think the big fella (Griffin) just got tired.”

Missouri is 22-0 when leading at halftime, and even in Missouri’s five losses, Xavier and Kansas State were the only teams to outscore the Tigers in the second half.

As usual, seniors Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll led the way for Missouri, scoring 15 points each. Carroll added 10 rebounds and even though Griffin grabbed 21 rebounds, the Missouri forwards held him to 16 points, nearly six points below his season average. The 6-foot-10 forward scored just five points in the second half.

“I thought our guys did a good job of getting in position when he got the ball,” Anderson said. “We made other guys make plays.”

The night started with tears during the recognition of the seniors for Carroll. The Birmingham, Ala. native said this season has been a “dream come true.”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now because I might get emotional again,” Carroll said. “It’s been a great career at home and I love Mizzou and I’ll always be a Tiger.”

Missouri’s win wasn’t the biggest upset of the night in the Big 12. Texas Tech beat Kansas 84-65 in Lubbock, Tex. If Missouri wins Saturday at Texas A&M, and Kansas loses to Texas at home, the Tigers would clinch a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament*.

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Ayn Rand March 5, 2009 | 7:47 a.m.

What makes this even sweeter is that as we were beating a team ranked higher, KU was losing to one ranked lower.

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