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Big 12: Missouri's motivation outlasts KU

©Associated Press

March 16, 2003

DALLAS -- Missouri had plenty of motivation.

Sure, the Tigers wanted to get into the Big 12 championship game and leave no doubt about their chance of making the NCAA Tournament. More important, they wanted to avenge a couple of close losses to Kansas.

They accomplished all three of those goals with one win Saturday.

Rickey Paulding scored 21, including five 3-pointers, and the Tigers rallied to beat No. 4 Kansas 68-63 in the semifinals. Missouri is in the final for the first time since 1997, the league's first season.

"It's like a storybook. We knew if we kept playing hard we had a chance to run into them again," Tigers center Arthur Johnson said. "And luckily we executed and came out with the victory."

The Tigers (21-9) had lost five straight to their border-state rival, including both this season, 76-70 and then 79-74 in the March 9 regular-season finale for Missouri's only loss at home this season.

"The freshness of the last loss really motivated us," coach Quin Snyder said. "We played our best half of the tournament in the second half."

Snyder was confident of taking his team to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season even before this week. But three wins in three days make that a certainty, even if it doesn't win the tournament and the league's automatic berth today.

Kansas (25-7), which won the regular-season Big 12 crown, didn't score after Aaron Miles made a layup to tie it at 63 with 3:15 left. The Jayhawks then missed their last five shots and shot just 35 percent (21-of-60), a day after shooting 60 percent in an 89-75 win over Iowa State.

"We played like the team that had played three days in a row," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "The want-to and sharpness was more in their corner. We had a lot of little breakdowns."

The Tigers took the lead when Johnson went strong to the hoop for a basket with 2:08 left. The teams then traded misses before Kansas had a huge turnover with a chance to tie.

Keith Langford started to drive and then passed to Michael Lee, who let the ball go through his hands and out of bounds by the Kansas bench with 57 seconds left. After the Tigers broke fullcourt pressure, Lee fouled Ricky Clemons, who made two free throws to make it 67-63 with 26 seconds left.

NO. 6 OKLA. 67, TEXAS TECH 60 (OT): Hollis Price wasn't about to miss a chance for a fourth straight trip to the final.

Price made up for a costly mistake in the final half-minute of regulation by scoring four of his 26 in overtime, including a steal and a layup with 58 seconds left.

Ebi Ere, playing with a broken bone in his left wrist, scored seven of his 17 in the extra period as the Sooners (23-6) kept alive their chances for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Oklahoma won its eighth straight game in the league tournament. The two-time reigning champ plays in the title game for the fifth time in six years today against Missouri.

OU seemed ready to cruise into the next round when it led by 12 at halftime. Then the offense bogged down, scoring only 18 in the second half to let the Red Raiders (18-12) slowly get back in the game.

Tech, making a furious final-weekend push for a berth into the NCAA Tournament, got within a basket when Kasib Powell hit a layup with 32.3 seconds left. It was the first basket of the half for Powell, who finished with 18 points.

The inbound pass went to Price, but he dribbled it off his foot and out of bounds before the Red Raiders could foul him. Powell followed with another layup to tie it at 56.

Price tried winning it in the final seconds, but with Powell guarding him tightly, he lost the ball on the way up for a 3-pointer. Price retrieved it and put up another shot that never came close as time expired.

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