Hoops: Horns top Tigers with clutch stretch play

Texas jumped out to a 16-point first half lead and then withstood a furious Missouri second half comeback Friday night in Kansas City for a hard-fought 89-85 win to advance to the Saturday's semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

The Horns led from the get-go, scoring the game's first six points and cruising to a 32-16 lead near the mid-way point of the first half, their largest of the game. After a Deginald Erskin inside bucket following a beautiful entry pass from T.J. Ford gave Texas a 15-point lead with six minutes to play before the break, the Longhorn offense went virtually dormant for the remainder of the half, scoring just two points and allowing Missouri to close to 43-35 at the half.

The Tigers, in a decidedly pro-Missouri Kemper Arena, quickly closed to within two at 49-47 four minutes after the break, but the Horns scored seven consecutive points, five by Fredie Williams after Ford left the game with his third foul, and sixth-seeded Mizzou couldn't close within five until the final possession of the game.

Along with Williams' contributions, Rick Barnes also got some unlikely second half offensive help from Jason Klotz to go along with the typical production from Brandon Mouton and James Thomas, plus Ford down the stretch. The freshman big man scored eight of UT's 14 points over a five minute stretch as the Horns kept the Tigers at arm's length. Mouton led the team with 19, Erskin scored 15 and Thomas totaled 11 points and 10 boards.

Ford, who came into the game nursing a groin muscle strain, played just 25 minutes, almost eight below his average, but still managed to dish out 10 assists.

Missouri's junior standout Kareem Rush lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 33 points, including nine points on three long-range bombs over the game's final two minutes, the last of which pulled the Tigers to within five at 87-82 with 13.3 to play. After a MU TO, the Horns turned the ball over on the inbounds pass but the Tigers (now 21-11 overall) gave it right back with an errant pass of their own that essentially sealed win No. 20 for the Horns.

The W sets up a Red River shootout between third-seeded UT (20-10 overall) and second-seeded OU (25-4) on the banks of the Missouri Saturday at 3:20. The Sooners won both of the teams' regular season meetings, 85-84 in OT in Austin and 96-78 in Norman. Oklahoma is gunning for its eighth straight victory over Texas, a win that would boost the Sooners' chances at landing a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. The Horns are also playing for an NCAA Tourney seeding, although the goals are a little less lofty for the guys in the Orange and White. As things stood going into the Big 12 Tournament, Texas projected as a six, seven or eight seed in the NCAAs and the Missouri win probably did nothing to change that (although an eight seed seems far less likely now). A win over the highly-ranked (both in the polls and the RPI) Sooners, though, would almost certainly bump the Horns up a seed in the Tourney.

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