COLUMBIA — Keith Ramsey swarmed to the basket so frequently and aggressively it looked as if the rim was a magnet pulling him in.
Ramsey led the Missouri men’s basketball team’s most aggressive effort of the season in an 82-77 victory against No. 15 Texas on Wednesday night in front of 14,389 at Mizzou Arena. It was Missouri's third straight win against the Longhorns and gives the Tigers another noteworthy win as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
Ramsey rushed to the basket and tipped in four baskets off teammates’ missed shots, winding up with 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds to counter the Big 12’s best rebounding team.
And the rest of the Tigers followed his lead.
After Missouri (19-7, 7-4 Big 12) made just 1-of-9 3-pointers in the first half, typically an indicator of a tough scoring night for the Tigers, Ramsey & Co. all but abandoned the 3-point shot and attacked the basket. They became physical around the rim.
"Hit somebody," coach Mike Anderson said he told his team before the game. "You can put a body on somebody, but you've got to hit somebody, and I thought we did a good job of that."
Kim English hit Texas with a shooting spree. He scored 11 points in the first six-plus minutes of the second half, scoring mostly off tricky shots as he drove to the basket.
English, who led the Tigers with 18 points, then pushed the ball ahead on a fast break and lofted an alley-oop pass to Michael Dixon Jr., who laid the ball in and got fouled for a 3-point play.
Although he was the only Tiger knocking down jump shots, Dixon also displayed Missouri’s attacking mindset. He scored five straight points in the middle of the second half to make it 54-47, Missouri’s first relatively big lead since the game’s opening minutes. The last two came on a breakaway layup that brought the crowd to its feet just before a TV timeout.
Although he started Missouri’s final push that busted the game open with four minutes left, J.T. Tiller eventually paid for Missouri’s aggressiveness. Just after running face-first into the padded beam supporting the basket, Tiller was whacked by Texas’ Gary Johnson, who raised his arm and swung it straight down on Tiller’s shoulder as Tiller went up for a breakaway layup.
"Like an old man," Tiller said as he described how he felt after the game. "My whole body hurts."
The play was called an intentional foul, and Missouri used it to put the Longhorns (20-6, 6-5 Big 12) away.
Tiller made one free throw, and Missouri kept the ball, resulting in one of Keith Ramsey’s tip-in baskets off a Tiller miss. Seconds later, after a Texas turnover, Ramsey tipped in another Tiller miss and sent the Mizzou Arena crowd into a jubilant frenzy as Texas called a timeout.
The first half was a lot more frustrating for the Tigers.
Midway through the half, Missouri picked up a string of fouls that put the Longhorns at the free-throw line after every foul for the final 12 minutes of the half. But the Longhorns didn’t take advantage, making just 8-of-17 attempts.
Many of the fouls occurred under the basket Missouri was defending. The Longhorns’ Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson were giving the Tigers’ forwards trouble inside.
But Ramsey changed that in the second half, when he determinedly flew to the basket and helped Missouri shove away the bigger Longhorns. He also led a pesky defensive attack in which the Tigers used active hands to force 18 Texas turnovers.
"Pittman was so worried about us doubling him and trying to get a shot off quick, he just kept on traveling," Ramsey said. "He didn't know what was coming at him, so it worked for us."
The win puts Missouri within one of 20, considered the minimum mark to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers will have a chance to get there when they play next Saturday at Nebraska.