KANSAS CITY — The Sprint Center has been the Missouri men's basketball team's home away from home this season.
The No. 5 Tigers have played their best basketball at the arena in downtown Kansas City, winning each of their three games there by at least 18 points.
Big 12 Conference Tournament
No. 2 seed Missouri (28-4)
vs. No. 6 seed Texas (20-12)
WHEN: 9 p.m.
WHERE: The Sprint Center, Kansas City
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM. 100.5 FM, KCMQ/96.7 FM
Unlike the other teams playing in the Big 12 tournament this week, Missouri has gotten the Kansas City college basketball experience already. They've slept in the hotel beds and shot on the Sprint Center rims before.
In late November, Missouri won the CBE Classic in Kansas City by beating Notre Dame by 29 and then-No. 18 California by 39 in consecutive nights. Notre Dame is a sure bet to make the NCAA tournament and many bracket predictions have California as NCAA tournament-bound as well.
"We reminded our guys how well we played here," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "I think our guys are comfortable being here because we have had an opportunity to play here earlier in the year."
Missouri picked up where it left off, dominating Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals. Kim English scored 27 points and Marcus Denmon scored 24 points in the Tigers' 88-70 win. The two seniors have combined for 124 points at the Sprint Center this season.
Missouri dominated the first half of Thursday's game, holding Oklahoma State to just 24 points.
"Our defense was outstanding," Haith said. "We've had some (other) games where we played defense like that. Particularly when we were in Kansas City before, I thought we had two really good games guarding the ball, good pressure."
Kansas City is home for four Tigers. Seniors Jarrett Sutton, Steve Moore, Denmon, and junior Michael Dixon all grew up in Kansas City. Senior Andrew Jones grew up 15 miles away in Smithville.
"The city adopted me," English added. "This is our city."
Just like they did when Missouri played in the CBE Classic, Missouri fans turned out in bunches for Thursday's game. Black and gold could be spotted in just about every section of the crowd.
Earlier this week, though, Kansas coach Bill Self questioned whether Kansas City is really Missouri's city. In a coaches' teleconference on Monday, Self said Kansas City was "more of a KU and K-State town."
Despite the Jayhawks not playing during the nighttime session on Thursday, plenty of Kansas blue was in the crowd amid the Missouri gold, Oklahoma State bright orange, Iowa State red and Texas burnt orange. Kansas State purple was sprinkled in as well. But, at least during the Missouri game, the noise level was loudest when it was the Tigers making a big play.
Self's words came on the topic of whether or not the Big 12 tournament should continue to be held in Kansas City when Missouri leaves the conference for the SEC at the end of this season. He doesn't see any reason for the Big 12 to move its tournament to another city.
"It's who puts on the best show," he said. "And obviously Kansas City has done a great job."
Dixon is disappointed that this is the last time he will get to play postseason basketball in his home city.
"It's always good and fun to play in front of your friends and family, but that's something that's not in my control," he said.
The Tigers play Texas (19-12, 9-9) in the Big 12 semifinals at 9 p.m. on Friday, meaning they can claim Kansas City as theirs for at least one more day.
"This is Kansas City, Missouri, last time I checked," Dixon said.