Lavender, Everett lead Sooners past Mizzou, 83-79

Oklahoma's Drew Lavender makes his way past Missouri's Jason Horton during the first half of the Sooners' 83-79 win over the Tigers Friday in Kansas City. Lavender scored 17 points and hit a career-high 12 free throws in the win. OU now advances to Saturday's semifinal against Texas Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

If you didn't believe Kelvin Sampson when he told everyone who would listen this week that Terrell Everett was Oklahoma's most valuable player, you do now.

Everett scored 18 points and saved the Sooners (24-6) from another second-half collapse with two clutch plays in the final minute of OU's 83-79 Big 12 quarterfinal win over Missouri (16-16) Friday in Kansas City.

"This time of year you don't overanalyze. You just survive and advance," said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, whose Sooners came back for their seventh straight win after blowing a 15-point second half lead.

Oklahoma built a 25-8 first-half lead on the heels of two Missouri technical fouls, but the Tigers battled back and cut the lead to 37-29 at the half. The Sooners pushed the lead back to 52-37 on a Lawrence McKenzie 3-pointer at the 13:42 mark, but 56 seconds later Everett was sent to the bench with his fourth foul and the Tigers were set for another run.

Linas Kleiza's 3-pointer at the 4:51 mark gave Missouri their first lead at 65-64 with 4:51 left. From that point on, the game had eight different lead changes over the next three minutes until Everett decided to take over the game.

With his team trailing 76-75 with 1:27 left, Everett's spinning drive and assist to a wide open Taj Gray helped give the Sooners the lead for good with one minute to go.

Everett then broke free on an in-bounds play, after a Missouri turnover following Gray's bucket, catching a great pass from Jaison Williams for a layup and three-point play to push the lead to 80-76 with 30 seconds left.

Missouri would cut the lead to 81-79 with a pair of Jason Conley free throws with 13 seconds left, but Williams was fouled on the in-bounds play with nine seconds to go and calmly sank both free throws seal the win.

"Our kids just did a good job of executing," Sampson said. "Terrell made a great cut, then Jaison comes back and makes two great free throws. Thas has kind of been the M.O of the kids in our program this year. I was real proud of them."

Back to Everett, the junior from Charleston, S.C. South chipped in seven assists, three rebounds and two steals in addition to his 18 points, but no play was bigger than his drive and dish to Gray.

"We just tried to get him over the top and get into the midle and attack," said Sampson on the play. "Terrell is one of those kids that can pass, he can shoot and he can score. Those guys are tough to defend. Plus, he's a baller. Terrell just balls. He's a baller."

Joining Everett in double figures for the Sooners was Drew Lavender (17), Gray (15), McKenzie (11) and Kevin Bookout (10).

Lavender was huge for the Sooners from the free throw line hitting 12 of his 14 attempts, while McKenzie was clutch once again off the bench. McKenzie's three-pointer with 4:24 to go to helped OU regain the lead and stop an 8-0 Missouri run. The sophomore from Minneapolis also stopped another 8-0 Missouri run midway through the second half with a clutch 3-pointer to push OU's lead back to eight. Bookout, who led the Sooners with 35 minutes, finished with 11 rebounds.

Linas Kleiza led the Tigers with a career-high 33 points and set a Big 12 Tournament record with 17 made free throws on 19 attempts.

In the end, Missouri was able to stay in the game by hitting 33 of their 35 free throw attempts. OU was also impressive from the line connecting on 28-of-33 free throws.

Oklahoma, who has won seven straight Big 12 Tournament games in Kemper Arena, will meet fourth-seeded Texas Tech in Saturday's semifinal. Texas Tech beat Iowa State 64-56 Friday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.

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