By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The "two-man game" is usually referenced in the NBA, a strategy involving two players dominating the ball, usually with the pick and roll (think Karl Malone and John Stockton).
Missouri used a two-man game in the scoring column to its advantage in avoiding the upset fate that befell its main rival.
The Tigers' Phil Pressey and Kim English combined for 46 points on 17-of-23 shooting as second-seeded Missouri knocked off sixth-seeded Texas 81-67 Friday night in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship.
Missouri (29-4) advances to Saturday's championship game and will face No. 4 seed Baylor, which surprised top-seeded Kansas, 81-72, in the first semifinal game.
Four minutes in the second half, English hit a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 48-41 lead. At that point, Pressey and English had combined to score 41 points. Pressey had just four points in the Tigers' quarterfinal victory but he made 5-of-7 3-pointers against the Longhorns (20-13) on his way to a career-high 23.
"I usually try to get a feel for the game and see how teams are going to play me, because some teams tend to play me for the pass," said Pressey, who set a Missouri single-season record for assists. "Some teams tend to just let me shoot. So I just took what the offense gave me. My teammates were confident in me to hit those shots, so I'm just going to take them."
English, who had 27 in the quarterfinal victory, equaled a Big 12 Championship record for field goal percentage.
"When he gets hot, I mean, there's not much you can do," Pressey said. "We see that every day in practice. He stays after late after practice, and it's paying off for him."
The Longhorns kept it close until early in the second half. J'Covan Brown, who led Texas with 21, scored on a drive with 16:25 remaining to cut Missouri's lead to 45-41. However, he tumbled out of bounds on the play and his head struck a camera. Brown was down for almost five minutes.
When he returned to action two minutes later, UT's momentum was gone. The Tigers had built a double-digit lead and the Longhorns couldn't mount a final charge.
Missouri shot 52.6 percent and is at 56 percent in its two games in the Sprint Center.
"I think Missouri does as good a job as any team I've seen in a long time in terms of sharing the ball, moving the ball," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "When they get you to spread out, they not only make the first extra pass, but they'll make the next one, the next one, and the next one."
Those anticipating and wishing for Missouri-Kansas III were disappointed when the top-seeded Jayhawks were upset before Missouri defeated Texas. The Tigers, though, took care of business.
"That's how it's been all year," English said. "We've really been dialed in what we have to do in the process. We want to get the best shot each time down court and try our best to get a stop, and then with a rebound each time down court.
"It is a business trip. Every game is about business. Every road trip is about business. And we came to Kansas City to take care of business. And we're in the position where we expect it to be."