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Tigers Take Home Men's Title
March 14, 2009
Championship Central

By Wendell Barnhouse |
Big 12 Correspondent

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - March Madness doesn't infect the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship. Cinderella doesn't live here. Big 12 postseason play always make sure the carriage turns into a pumpkin at midnight.

Ninth-seeded Baylor became the fourth team to win three games in the Big 12 Championship but fall short in the title game. No. 3 seed Missouri made sure the Green Machine's dream died a victory short.

The relentless Tigers won their first Big 12 Championship - in basketball and in any men's sport - with a business-like 73-60 victory over Baylor Saturday in the Ford Center.

"Our defense was the most consistent thing for us in the second half," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. "And in the second half we really came out and put the pedal to the metal."

Missouri in 1997 and 2003 and Oklahoma State in 1999 all attempted the four wins in four days challenge. Baylor tried but became an almost-but-not-quite story.

And around the country, a number of NCAA Tournament bubble teams could breathe again. Had the Bears won and captured the Big 12's automatic bid, there would have been one less place to sit in the game of musical chairs. San Diego State, Maryland, Creighton, Saint Mary's, Penn State, Arizona and Auburn - enjoy the oxygen.

"Coach Anderson has been nothing but honest with us," said senior Matt Lawrence, who had 13 points. "He said he was gonna bring a championship to this school. Nobody believed him other than the 14 guys in our locker room."

Tired teams have no luck. For Baylor, it started with who it played. Asked if playing Missouri was the worst match up for a team playing its fourth game in four days, Drew had an easy answer: "Yes."

Missouri's pressure defense - whether full court or half court - plus its deep bench tends to wear teams down.

"Anytime you play a team like Missouri that basically presses the entire game, it kind of wears guys down," said Baylor's Kevin Rogers, who was limited to eight points on six shots. "That's the style they play and it's very successful for them."

The Tigers started the second half with an 11-4 burst that produced their first double-digit lead (46-35).

Baylor countered to keep the game within reach. But at the midway point of the second 20 minutes, the Bears played like a tired team. Four 3-pointers just kicked off the front side of the rim and became rebounds. Another quarter of an inch and those were swishes.

"We were taking and making those shots all tournament," said senior guard Curtis Jerrells, who missed one of the threes and also came up short on a driving layup. "Missouri makes you play faster than you want. Maybe we rushed some shots. Maybe it was fatigue. I don't know."

Baylor's four guards _ Jerrells, Tweety Carter, Henry Dugat and LaceDarius Dunn - combined to make 15 of 46 shots. The foursome was 4-of-23 on 3-pointers.

Missouri, which was 6-of-31 on 3-pointers against Oklahoma State's zone in Friday's semifinal victory, had little trouble solving Baylor's zone. The Tigers made 8-of-17 from behind the arc. Coupled with Baylor's ineffectiveness against Mizzou's defense.

There was no drama preceding the celebration. Missouri dribbled out the clock and then the confetti blizzard started.

After accepting the championship trophy, Anderson took the microphone. His "M-I-Z" was answered by "Z-O-U." Then he told the crowd, "We're not done yet."

* The All-Tournament team - Missouri's DeMarre Carroll (most outstanding player), Missouri's Zaire Taylor, Baylor's Kevin Rogers, Texas' Dexter Pittman and Texas Tech's Mike Singletary.

* The four Big 12 teams that attempted to win four games in four days lost the Championship game by an average score of 65-51. The four teams shot 31.6 percent from the field and 21.5 percent on 3-pointers.

* There was a nice touch to the introduction of the starting lineups for both teams. Instead of just the five players, the public address announcer introduced student managers, team trainers and reserves.

* The Baylor women's team, which defeated Iowa State in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship semifinal earlier Saturday, got to the men's game about mid-way through the first half. On a block-charge call that went against Baylor in the second half, Lady Bears coach Kim Mulkey was on her feet yelling in protest.

* Former Arkansas players Oliver Miller and Todd Day who played for the Razorbacks when Mike Anderson was an assistant coach there were in attendance Saturday.

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