Missouri won't get a much-anticipated rematch with the Big 12 regular-season champions, but that doesn't seem to matter as long as it's playing for the tournament title in its last game as a member of the conference.
The fifth-ranked Tigers look to leave the Big 12 on a high note when they face No. 12 Baylor in Saturday's tournament final in Kansas City.Missouri players and fans were likely looking forward to a rematch with arch-rival Kansas in the Tigers' final Big 12 game Saturday, but fourth-seeded Baylor (27-6) crashed the party with an 81-72 victory over the two-time defending tournament champion Jayhawks in Friday's first semifinal.The Tigers (29-4), who still could have a shot at earning a No.1 NCAA tournament seed, earned a title date with the Bears after rolling to an 81-67 victory over Texas in Friday's second contest. Missouri, which is leaving the Big 12 to join the SEC after this season, beat Baylor 73-60 in 2009 for its only league tournament championship in three title game appearances.Though a rematch against Kansas would have been fun, the second-seeded Tigers at least publicly don't seem to care who they face in their Big 12 swan song."We would have played Texas Tech, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, anybody," said senior guard Kim English, who shook off a thigh bruise to score 23 points against the Longhorns. "We just wanted to win the Big 12. We are prepared to beat Baylor (Saturday) and try our best."The Tigers also don't seem too concerned with any bridges the school might have burned with the decision to head to the SEC and send the Big 12 into turmoil."We're focused on people that's in our locker room, the people that support our program," English said. "The fans in the state of Missouri. That's who we want to win this championship for."Baylor, meanwhile, is simply glad its goal of winning the school's first Big 12 tournament title remains intact."You never want to get disrespected," said forward Quincy Acy, who had 11 points and six rebounds Friday. "So we came in with the mindset this week to win every game."While the Bears' confidence continues to grow, they face a tough challenge trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to Missouri. The Tigers held on for an 89-88 victory at Baylor on Jan. 21, then won 72-57 at home Feb. 11.Missouri point guard Flip Pressey totaled 35 points while shooting 10 of 18 in the two wins over the Bears this season. The sophomore went 8 of 13 from the floor and finished with a career-high 23 points Friday.The Tigers shot 52.6 percent and controlled the game most of the night despite leading scorer Marcus Denmon (17.7 points per game) missing all 10 of his shots and being held to two made free throws."I think that's a great example of a ball club that's a team," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "We have other really good players on this team."That kind of balance does not bode well for Baylor, even though it held the high-powered Jayhawks to 42.6 percent shooting and led throughout most of its semifinal contest.Perry Jones had 18 points and Brady Heslip hit a pair of late 3-pointers to finish with 12 points as the Bears withstood an 18-3 Kansas run to score nine straight points after the Jayhawks took a 58-56 lead."This was a night we grew up," Baylor coach Scott Drew said.Six-foot-9 Baylor freshman Quincy Miller, who had 13 points Friday, totaled 49 in the two meetings with Missouri this season.