With about a minute to play, Kim English was called for his fifth foul, becoming the second Missouri player to foul out of the Tigers' game Wednesday night at Iowa State.
English, whistled trying to stop the Cyclones' Chris Allen from putting in a rebound, went to the bench, and Allen made both his free throws to pull Iowa State within 70-66 and set off the crowd of 13,198 at Hilton Coliseum. The momentum, which the Tigers had struggled to secure for much of the game, seemed to be in doubt again.
On the next possession, sophomore point guard Phil Pressey kept Missouri in control, though, wearing about 30 seconds off the clock before slinging the ball to 6-foot-8 senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe under the basket. Ratliffe made his layup to repel any kind of surge from Iowa State.
Allen hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left, but it wasn't enough and the No. 9 Missouri men's basketball team held off Iowa State 76-69 to improve to 15-1 and 2-1 in the Big 12 Conference.
It was the Cyclones' (12-4) first Big 12 loss after starting conference play 2-0. It was Missouri's first conference road win of the season after failing in its first attempt Saturday in a 75-59 loss at Kansas State.
"To win on the road, you got to have that mental toughness," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "You got to be able to withstand runs, because teams are going to go on runs because of the crowd. There will be a lot of teams who lose in this building here."
After Allen's 3-pointer, Iowa State was forced to foul, and Missouri's Marcus Denmon was sent to the line twice where he nailed all four of his free throws. But before the final 20 seconds, Denmon, usually the Tigers' leading scorer, had been held to just two points.
Denmon had an Iowa State player following him at all times, leaving more open space for Missouri's other shooters who took advantage of many of their opportunities.
"If we do our job and be aggressive and make plays, I think they're going to have to pick their poison. (If) they're going to deny him (Denmon) and they leave guys open, and we step in and make those shots," senior Matt Pressey said.
Six Missouri players finished in double figures, led by Matt Pressey with 14. Center Steve Moore had a particularly strong game off the bench. Despite fouling out at the 3:22 mark of the second half, he finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block.
Michael Dixon scored 12 points, also from the bench, while Phil Pressey had 12 points and English, who also seemed frustrated by the Iowa State defense, finished with 10. Ricardo Ratliffe, who earned two early fouls that put him on the bench for the majority of the first 20 minutes, scored 12 points.
"His demeanor, his disposition was so much better," Haith said of Ratliffe. "You cannot allow the game to frustrate you … (You have to) stay in the present, and I think he did a great job of that tonight. He had a couple plays there where he got two fouls and stayed right in the game.
In a wild end to the first half, Missouri and Iowa State battled back and forth. Michael Dixon attempted a 3-point shot with less than 10 seconds on the clock. But Tyrus McGee tipped the ball as it left Dixon's hands, making the shot look more like an air ball until Marcus Denmon jumped to catch the ball and lobbed it off the backboard before he flew out of bounds.
But afterward, Iowa State guard Scott Christopherson sprinted to half court, jumped and made a 3-point shot with no time left on the clock to give the Cyclones a 38-36 lead at the half.
Missouri came back in the second half with an early surge. Ratliffe dominated from the post, collecting three assists on three straight possessions.
Iowa State attempted to double-team Ratliffe down low, so he kept dishing the ball to Missouri shooters, including Phil Pressey, who nonchalantly made a 3-point shot to give Missouri their first lead of the half at the 17:03 mark.
Missouri took a 66-58 lead with with 5:05 left when Michael Dixon, in what has become his signature go-to play, drove full-speed to the net, splitting two larger defenders for a layup.