THE WEEK IN MISSOURI SPORTS: Wrestling team wins first Big 12 title

Sunday, March 4, 2012 | 7:20 p.m. CST; updated 8:11 p.m. CST, Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Missouri wrestling team won its first Big 12 Championship, and the winningest class in Missouri men's basketball history celebrated Senior Night.

Wrestling team wins Big 12 title

A crowd at Hearnes Center cheered on Iowa State's Matt Gibson as he defeated Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State in the heavyweight final, the last match of the Big 12 tournament. Gibson's victory preserved Missouri's four-point lead over Oklahoma State in the overall standings, giving the Tigers their first conference title

Missouri wrestlers Alan Waters (125 pounds), Drake Houdashelt (157), Zach Toal (165) and Mike Larson (184) each won individual conference titles.

The title came just in time. Missouri will join the Southeastern Conference, which does not feature wrestling competition, this summer, and the wrestling program has not decided where it will compete next year. In the meantime, the Tigers will compete in the NCAA Tournament on March 15 in St. Louis.

Missourian photographer Katie Alaimo captured the Missouri wrestlers in action and in celebration.

Men's basketball bounces back from Kansas loss

After losing the overtime heartbreaker in Lawrence on Feb. 25, the No. 7-ranked men's basketball team returned on Wednesday for its Senior Night game against Iowa State. The 2012 class boasts more wins (104) than any class in Missouri history. Eight seniors were honored.

Missouri did not play its best game but hung on to beat the streaking Cyclones, 78-72. The victory ensured that Missouri, regardless of the result in a season finale against Texas Tech, would be the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament.

Nevertheless, the Tigers didn't take it easy Saturday in Lubbock, running away with an 81-59 victory. They made a season-high 16 3-pointers to end the season 27-4 overall and 14-4 in Big 12. 

The team received more good news Sunday when the conference awards were released. Marcus Denmon was named to the All-Big 12 first team for the second consecutive year, and Michael Dixon earned the Sixth Man of the Year award. Ricardo Ratliffe, Kim English and Phil Pressey were also honored. Strangely, coach Frank Haith missed out on the Coach of the Year award, which was given to Kansas coach Bill Self and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.

Missouri will play either seventh-seeded Oklahoma State or 10th-seeded Texas Tech at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star wrote that college basketball in the Kansas City area will never be as good as it is this year again.

Football team completes schedule, settles Big 12 exit fee, loses pioneer

Missouri completed its 2012 schedule by adding a nonconference game against Syracuse. The game, a one-year arrangement, will be played on Nov. 17 in Columbia.

Earlier in the week, the Big 12 announced that Missouri and Texas A&M would each lose out on an estimated $12.4 million in revenues because of their withdrawal from the conference. Missouri also won't get money earned from the television contract the Big 12 has with Fox Sports and has agreed to pay the Big 12 for its share of officiating expenses for 2011-12 athletic year (about $500,000).

On Saturday, Norris Stevenson, the former Missouri football player who became the first black player to accept a football scholarship at the school, died in St. Louis of cancer. Stevenson, a fullback as well as a track and field athlete, was inducted into the University of Missouri Hall of Fame in 2001.

Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune sat down with head coach Gary Pinkel, who will turn 60 in April, to talk about the transition to the SEC, new uniforms and helmets and upcoming spring practices.

Women's basketball team loses last two games

Missouri lost 75-62 to Texas on Tuesday and fell 68-47 to Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Tigers finished the regular season 12-17 overall and 2-16 in the conference.

Nevertheless, the athletics department showed its support for Robin Pingeton, who it gave a one-year contract extension through 2017.

Softball, baseball teams battle back from slow starts

The Missouri softball team dropped two more games and went 3-2 in the Cathedral City Classic, falling from No. 11 to No. 13 in the national rankings. The team started the season ranked No. 5. However, the Tigers did beat No. 7 UCLA, and pitcher Chelsea Thomas and freshman first baseman Kelsea Roth earned Big 12 Player of the Week awards.

Also, Missouri (10-3) won four consecutive games in the Missouri Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Kansas City, capping it with a 6-0 victory against UMKC on Sunday night. It hosts Alcorn State, Boise State and Northern Illinois in the DeMarini Invitational this weekend.

The baseball team rebounded from being swept in three games by San Francisco last week to take two of three games from Ball State. Sophomore pitcher Rob Zastryzny helped snap a four-game losing streak Saturday by giving up only three hits over six innings. The Tigers (4-5) face Nebraska-Omaha on Monday before hosting Charlotte in a four-game series this weekend. 

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