Posted March 10, 2012 on AP on Fox
Although it's another 20-win season for his Texas Longhorns, Rick Barnes sees a lot of room for improvement. It showed Friday night against a thoroughbred Missouri team. The No. 5 Tigers grabbed the lead in the opening minutes and never let go of it while downing the Longhorns 81-67 in the Big 12 semifinals. ''Guys hold the ball. They stop the ball from moving,'' said Barnes. ''You've got to move the ball.'' The Tigers, who are heading to the Southeastern Conference this year, got 23 points from Kim English and a career-high 23 from Phil Pressey, who canned his first three 3-point attempts. ''I kept talking to our team today and last night about not only did (Missouri) make the extra pass, they'll make one more and one more. They really move the ball and they really stick the ball,'' said Barnes. ''We got down because we break out of it too easy in terms of just understanding simple ball movement, and we started standing.'' J'Covan Brown, who crashed into a cluster of photographers in the second half and went to the bench for a few minutes shaking his head, wound up with 21 points for the Longhorns after scoring only five in the first half. ''I think I came down hit my head, you know,'' Brown said. ''My neck got stiff on me. But I'll be all right.'' A few minutes after Brown returned to the floor, English left for a few minutes after banging his leg in a collision with another player. But he also came back, and said he'd be OK for Saturday's title game against Baylor. Missouri, which is severing conference ties with some schools that go back more than 100 years, led almost the entire way while making it three in a row over the Longhorns (20-13). Pressey, whose previous career high was 22 points, hit his first three 3-point attempts to stake the Tigers to an early lead they never gave up. ''When Pressey's making those 3s, he's as tough as any guy to guard because he does such a terrific job off seeing the floor,'' said Barnes. ''I think Missouri does as good a job as any team I've seen in a long time in terms of sharing the ball, and moving the ball. They get your spread out. They'll make the first pass and then they'll make the next one and the next one.'' Marcus Denmon, Missouri's two-time All-Big 12 guard who had 24 points the night before against Oklahoma State, was 0 for 10 from the floor and scored only two points. His previous season low was six points, against Texas. ''A team like Missouri gives you very, very small margin of error guarding them,'' said Barnes. ''But when he's shooting the ball like (Pressey) was shooting the ball, it really makes it extremely tough on your defense.'' After a 3-pointer by Pressey, Texas cut the lead to 67-57 on buckets by Brown and Clint Chapman. But Michael Dixon answered with back-to-back 3-pointers and the lead suddenly skied to 16 points with about 6 1/2 minutes left. Pressey had 18 points in the first half, combining with English to score 32 points and send the Tigers into intermission with a 39-32 lead. Pressey was 5 for 7 from behind the arc for the game. Pressey's fourth 3-pointer at the 2:59 mark gave Missouri its biggest first-half lead at 39-26. But Myck Kabongo drilled an answering 3-pointer and Brown canned a free throw and a 12-footer as the Longhorns ended the half on a 6-0 run. English, who had 27 points in Missouri's 88-70 quarterfinal win over Oklahoma State, was 6 for 6 from the floor in the first half after hitting his first eight shots the night before against Oklahoma State. He was 9 for 10 for the game and 3 of 4 behind the 3-point line. After Jonathon Holmes scored inside for Texas, cutting the lead to 17-15, English led Missouri on a 9-1 run, driving in for a layup and popping in his second 3-pointer.
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