After handing No. 3 Missouri one of its two losses of the season three weeks ago in Stillwater, Oklahoma State expected a significantly better effort from the Tigers in their rematch Wednesday night.
It got one, too.
Marcus Denmon scored 17 points and was joined by four teammates in double figures as the Tigers avenged that earlier defeat with an 83-65 rout over the Cowboys. Missouri (24-2, 11-2) led by 22 points at halftime and by as many as 35 well into the second half before a late run fueled by Keiton Page made the final score a tad more respectable.
"We weren't aggressive," Cowboys forward Le'Bryan Nash said. "Our offense wasn't flowing well in the first half. They're the No. 3 team in the country, so when they're hitting shots, they're not going to stop hitting them. I'll give credit where credit is due, they're probably one of the best teams in the country."
Page led Oklahoma State (12-14, 5-8) with 23 points, but 14 of those came in the game's final 7 minutes once the outcome wasn't in doubt. He hit 5 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc.
Missouri held Nash to 11 points after he torched the Tigers for 27 in a seven-point win in January. Nash sat out 5 minutes early in the first half after picking up two quick fouls.
"It did frustrate me a lot," Nash said. "As soon as I got that second foul, as soon as I went out, they went on their run. I fell like it was partly my fault because I got stupid fouls. If I would've stayed in the game, it would have probably been a different game."
Missouri started slow, making just one of its first six shots as the Cowboys took an early 4-point lead. But the Tigers soon found their shooting touch and it fueled a 23-4 run over 9 minutes in first half that helped Missouri put the game away.
Coach Travis Ford attributed his team's lackluster interior presence to Missouri's defense.
"I was disappointed we didn't get the ball inside enough," he said. "That's one thing you try to work on. We wanted to, but we just never got to it, but a lot of it had to do with Missouri's defense. The pressure on the perimeter was some of the best we've seen all year."
English, the primary Missouri defender on Nash, said he learned what not to do after the prolific scorer had a career night in their previous encounter.
"I really was focused on getting him off the blocks where he's comfortable," English said. "I sniffed out some of their plays early and didn't let him get going early. With young, prolific scorers, if they make some baskets early, their jump shots get going, they get a little bit more moxie."
The Tigers, who start four guards along with the 6-foot-8 Ratliffe, had a 37-29 rebound advantage, their first after being outrebounded by an average of more than nine boards the previous five games. But for a change, the defensive matchup was favorable against a team that starts three guards and also has no starter taller than 6-8. That big man, redshirt freshman Michael Cobbins, had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Cowboys.
Missouri's lead was so large that coach Frank Haith was able to put little-used reserves Jarrett Sutton and Andrew Jones, a tight end recruited from the football team early in the hoops season to shore up a thin front line, into the game with nearly 5 minutes remaining.
If seeking revenge for one of its only two losses this season was on No. 3 Missouri's mind, the Tigers kept that goal in the locker room Wednesday night.
"Just business," English said. "But we definitely remembered how we didn't perform in Stillwater."
Ricardo Ratliffe and sixth-man Michael Dixon both had 15 points and English and Phil Pressey scored 13 apiece for Missouri, which is tied with No. 4 Kansas for first place in the Big 12.
The victory extended the school record of 101 for Missouri's four-man senior class, a group that consists of English, Denmon, Ratliffe and Matt Pressey, Phil's older brother.
But like his stone-faced public persona when asked about revenge as a possible motivation, English said the record is the byproduct of a more significant plan — one the Tigers hope will culminate in the school's first Final Four and a national championship.
"Those are product goals. We're stuck in the process," he said, repeating what has become a near-mantra for Haith and his team. "You're going to get some accolades along the way if you really consume yourself with getting better every day. That's a testament to us just getting lost in preparation every week, especially this season."
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