OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Zaire Taylor and No. 14 Missouri continue to show that playing fast doesn’t necessarily mean playing pretty.
The Tigers will take the wins any way they come.
Taylor scored a season-high 19 points, Leo Lyons added 12 of his 15 points in the second half and the Tigers were the first to break through in an off night for offense, beating Oklahoma State 67-59 to move on to the Big 12 championship game.
The teams combined to shoot only 18 percent from 3-point range, making just 10 of 55 long-range shots, despite both coming in ranked among the nation’s leaders in offense.
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said. “But sometimes ugly is better for us.”
Kim English scored four points in an 8-0 burst that put Missouri ahead to stay midway through the second half, and the Tigers (27-6) pushed the lead to 54-47 when Matt Lawrence connected on a rare 3-pointer from the right corner with 5:21 to play.
The Tigers hung on from there to earn a spot in Saturday’s title game against ninth-seeded Baylor. Missouri is seeking its first Big 12 championship, having lost its only previous appearances in the finals in 1997 and 2003.
“I always say shooting comes and goes, and it went tonight,” Anderson said. “I thought our defense was the constant.”
James Anderson scored 20 points to lead Oklahoma State (22-11), and Marshall Moses had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The Cowboys, who average the fifth-most 3-pointers in the nation with 9.5 per game, misfired on their first 16 attempts and found themselves behind when they finally broke through.
“It definitely affects us when we’re not making 3s,” Moses said. “We have big-time 3-point shooters and that’s a big part of what we do.”
Missouri didn’t fare much better.
The Tigers, who average the same 81.8 points per game as Oklahoma State, started out 4-for-28 from 3-point range before Lawrence hit two late to help put the game away. Missouri’s 31 attempted 3s tied a season-high.
Taylor carried the load in the first half while the rest of the Tigers couldn’t get anything going offensively. Taylor was 4-for-8 and scored 10 points, while everyone else combined to go 4-for-23 from the field and 0-for-12 from 3-point range.
He hit a 3-pointer just over 2 minutes into the second half to put Missouri up for the first time since it was 4-2, and the Tigers finally created some distance on consecutive baskets by DeMarre Carroll, Will Denmon and English that made it 43-38.
Obi Muonelo finally broke Oklahoma State’s 3-point drought when he connected from the right side to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 6:14 remaining, but Lyons answered with a jumper from the right wing before Lawrence came through with the first of his two big shots down the stretch.
“It is a good feeling,” Taylor said. “That’s what we all live for, even when we are little.”
Muonelo finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Oklahoma State wound up 4-for-24 from 3-point range.
The Cowboys lost Terrel Harris to his third foul less than 9 minutes in, and point guard Byron Eaton hobbled off the floor with 9:32 left before halftime after spraining his left foot. He hopped on his right leg, putting no weight at all on his left foot, as two trainers helped him to the bench.
He was able to return and play all 20 minutes after halftime.
“We wouldn’t have been in this game without Byron,” Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. “You know, Byron struggled tonight. He was injured, but I loved the effort and the heart he came back and played with.
“It just wasn’t our basketball team tonight.”