Of the top four seeds in the Big 12 tournament, Missouri was the only one to win its opening game.
Its reward is facing a dangerous Oklahoma State team that is playing perhaps its best basketball of the season.
The No. 14 Tigers look to advance to the tournament championship game for the first time in six years Friday when they take on the surging Cowboys.
Although the four top seeds in the Big 12 tournament all receive first-round byes, only third-seeded Missouri (26-6) advanced to the tournament semifinals after No. 11 Kansas, Kansas State and No. 6 Oklahoma all lost on Thursday.
The Tigers also looked to be in danger of suffering an upset, but they used a second-half surge to break open a tie game and beat Texas Tech 81-60.
The win was Missouri’s first in the Big 12 tournament since 2005, snapping a four-game losing streak.
“Definitely a load off our back for the fact that we haven’t even been to the second round of the tournament,” said junior J.T. Tiller, who scored 11 of his 13 points after halftime. “This has been our biggest game.”
Regardless of how it fares in the rest of this tournament, Missouri has more than likely already secured its first NCAA tourney berth since 2003. However, the Tigers are seeking to regain momentum after losing two of their final three regular-season games.
Missouri gave up 90 points in each of those losses but they had a great defensive effort Thursday, holding Texas Tech to 36.4 percent shooting.
“Like coach said, we needed to get our rhythm on the defensive end,” senior DeMarre Carroll said. “That’s our main goal in this whole tournament is just try to focus on defense.”
Carroll and the Tigers now look to cool off Oklahoma State (22-10), which has won eight of its last nine including two Big 12 tournament victories. The Cowboys advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons Thursday with a 71-70 upset of the second-seeded Sooners, likely securing their own NCAA tournament bid.
“They are a very hot basketball team,” Missouri senior Matt Lawrence said.
James Anderson made two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to secure Thursday’s win for Oklahoma State. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds while Byron Eaton added 16 points and seven assists.
“We concentrated on this game that everybody that gets in … needs to make a play somewhere, somehow, a big play,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “That’s what it is going to take to beat one of the best teams in the country, special plays by everybody.”
Missouri beat the Cowboys 97-95 on Jan. 21 in Stillwater despite the fact three Oklahoma State players scored more than 20 points. Junior guard Obi Muonelo had a team-high 22 for the Cowboys. Muonelo is averaging 15.0 points in this tournament after scoring 13 in his final four regular season games combined.
The winner of this contest will advance to play either Baylor or Texas in Saturday’s title game.