Missouri completed a sweep of one of its main rivals for the Big 12 title in its last game. Based on what happened after their first win in that season series, the Tigers should be very aware of the chance of a letdown in their next contest.
The third-ranked Tigers look to avoid being swept themselves by Oklahoma State on Wednesday night as they again take on the Cowboys right after a key victory over Baylor.
Missouri (23-2, 10-2) earned an 89-88 win over the then-No. 3 Bears on Jan. 21, its first road victory over a top 5 team since 1994 that gave it an edge over one of its main competitors in the conference race.
The Tigers, however, apparently weren't ready to play in their next contest, falling 79-72 at Oklahoma State four days later as they allowed the Cowboys to shoot a season-high 59.6 percent.
"I thought that our focus was not where it needed to be in order to win a game like this on the road," coach Frank Haith said after that loss, his team's most recent defeat.
Haith's squad led that game 53-45 with 14:22 to play, but its defensive intensity wasn't there as Oklahoma State got a career-high 27 points from Le'Bryan Nash and a career-best 22 from Brian Williams.
That wasn't the case in Missouri's latest outing, as the Tigers limited the Bears to 36.2 percent shooting in taking the rematch 72-57 at home Saturday. Phil Pressey scored 19 points and Marcus Denmon had 16 for the Tigers, who lead third-place Baylor by 3 1/2 games.
Missouri can pull into a tie for the top spot with No. 4 Kansas with its fifth straight win Wednesday, but will have to avoid the lapses that plagued it in the first meeting with Oklahoma State.
"They played loose and easy. They had nothing to lose," Haith said of the Cowboys, who've taken the last two matchups.
The Tigers have a bad recent history at Stillwater, having lost six straight there while ranked, but they've had better results in the series at home. Missouri won the last meeting at Mizzou Arena 95-80 on Jan. 30, 2010, and has taken five of seven matchups in Columbia.
In addition to the revenge factor, Oklahoma State will have to deal with the nation's leading shooter looking to get back on track after a rare off night. Forward Ricardo Ratliffe, tops in the country with a 73.7 field-goal percentage, managed six points on 3 for 9 from the field versus Baylor.
"I just didn't think I played as well I could have. But we've got so many great players that we're still able to win even though just one guy may not be on his 'A' game," Ratliffe said.
Ratliffe had team highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds while going 10 of 17 from the floor Jan. 25.
While Missouri has bounced back from the upset by Oklahoma State, the Cowboys (12-13, 5-7) haven't been able to use the victory to build momentum. They've alternated losses and wins in five games since and are coming off an 81-66 rout at the hands of the seventh-ranked Jayhawks on Saturday.
Nash shot 2 of 10 and scored 11 points. Markel Brown scored 21 and Keiton Page had 19, but Page went 5 of 16 from the field as Oklahoma State shot 32.7 percent.
The Cowboys trailed 51-24 at halftime before outscoring Kansas by 12 in the final 20 minutes.
"They attacked the area and we didn't fight back until the second half," Brown said. "We had to turn it around the second half and show we're capable of playing with anybody."
The Cowboys are shooting 41.5 percent on the season, compared to 50.0 for Missouri.
Denmon has averaged 23.3 points over his last three games.
- the Cowboys