AUSTIN, Texas -- In all the fury, Frank Haith implored Michael Dixon to remain calm.
“There is no time to panic and no time to stress,” the Missouri coach told his guard.
Really, if ever there were a time, this would have been it. Dixon had just committed a flagrant foul by swinging his elbow above the shoulders of Julien Lewis. The ensuing foul shot and possession gave Texas a 66-65 lead. And No. 4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2) was suddenly down on the road with less than a minute to go after seemingly taking complete control just minutes earlier.
But Dixon came right back, found a lane to the basket, lifted a left-handed layup over Lewis and pushed the Tigers to a 67-66 lead and an eventual victory by that score in front of 12,203 at the Frank Erwin Center Monday night.
“In the heat of battle, things happen,” Dixon said of the flagrant call. “You got to look at the next play and that was what we did and we were able to win.”
That Missouri was able to look ahead instead of behind was important because what it had left in the rearview was a path of self-destruction. The Tigers, with the memories of a horrible road loss to Oklahoma State lingering, held a 10-point lead with less than five minutes left in this game. There was also the less-than-impressive home win over Texas Tech bouncing around between the ears.
The Tigers had to eschew the whispers and the yells coming from the home crowd.
“Coach has been stressing growth from the OSU game and kind of how we let that game slip away,” Missouri's Kim English said. “We always stayed true to that. We talked about late in games two things have to be consistent -- defensive stops and offensive execution.”
Neither were exactly flawless in the final five minutes. But in the final 40 seconds, both were. First was Dixon's score. Then came the defensive stop.
Texas has the most prolific scorer in the Big 12 in J'Covan Brown, and the junior is able to squeeze off and make shots from everywhere. With 27 seconds left, there was little doubt the ball was going to find its way into his hands.
Missouri decided to come out in a zone on the final possession and that appeared to throw the Texas offense. When the ball finally did find its way into Brown's hands, there were only 12 seconds left and he was stymied.
“I was just trying to find a gap and there wasn't nothing,” Brown said.
So Brown passed to freshman Myck Kabongo. His shot didn't clear the rim.
“He did get fouled,” complained Texas coach Rick Barnes.
Not in the eyes of the officials.
Barnes did acknowledge that, while that play mattered, it was not the one that lost the game for UT. Instead, it was the Longhorns' inability to contain Dixon, not just on the last play, but on plenty of others as well. The junior went 9-of-10 for 21 points in 27 minutes. During one stretch, Dixon rattled in three straight jumpers over Brown to give Missouri a 12-point lead early in the second half.
“I gave up basically half his points,” Brown said of his defensive effort.
“I felt like from an offensive standpoint he had nice pop and nice focus,” Haith said of Dixon. “His play allowed us to get some separation.”
Now Missouri must separate itself in a Big 12 race that has allowed for anything but. The Tigers, who already have a road win against No. 6 Baylor, get their first of two shots at No. 8 Kansas on Saturday. At 7-1, the Jayhawks, winners of the past seven conference titles, lead the conference race.
As for Texas (13-9, 3-6), the Longhorns have lost seven games by six points or less. Texas may not have enough on its résumé to make it to a 14th straight NCAA tournament without a strong run in the second half of the conference season and in the Big 12 tournament.