COLUMBIA — Jason Horton can easily be overlooked among his teammates on the Missouri men’s basketball team.
He doesn’t have Stefhon Hannah’s shooting touch, Keon Lawrence’s energy and charisma or J.T. Tiller’s raw athleticism.
But when Horton’s not there, it shows.
Rewind to Dec. 22. A stress fracture in the right side of his back forced Horton to a season-low nine minutes and Missouri lost a sloppy 59-58 battle with Illinois.
Now come back to Tuesday. Playing through the pain that will affect him for the rest of the season, Horton had statistically his best game of the season and Missouri blew out UMKC 96-76, including a 27-8 run in the first six and a half minutes of the second half.
Horton scored a season-high 11 points.
“I want him to do that all the time,” Lawrence said. “That can help us a lot, just having the extra guard that can attack and score inside and just like create for others and play good defense. We’re going to need that going into Big 12.”
Horton also added five assists, three rebounds and a steal, but what sticks out is the 11 points.
Horton, who is scoring a career-low 2.8 points per game this season, has been ultra-passive when it comes to shooting this year, usually electing to pass. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday.
“At times I can be too unselfish to a fault. I think it kind of hurts us at times,” Horton said. “I think now I’ve just got to pick my spots to be better. Sometimes, when I don’t take it, it forces us to take a bad shot at the end of the clock.”
Horton said his back still hurt during the game, but not as bad as it used to. He went home to Dallas last week when the Tigers didn’t have a game, got some rest and has been spending a lot of time with a spine specialist. But it is rest, he said, that will be the key to the remainder of his senior season.
“Some days I might practice two days in a row and then take a day off,” Horton said. “Rest is best thing for it.”
Horton will play an important role as Missouri fights to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002-03. Missouri opens Big 12 Conference play at home against Texas on Saturday.
“We’ve been missing Jason,” MU coach Mike Anderson said.
Horton had started 42 of 59 games through his first two seasons at Missouri and was the starting two guard to begin last season.
Midway through his junior year Horton was replaced in the starting lineup by then freshman Lawrence, but because of his consistent play Horton moved back into his starting role midway through this season.
Now, injury and all, Horton has become a key player for the 10-5 Tigers.
“Sometimes when you have those injuries it is on your mind,” Anderson said. “But I thought he just played through it and played basketball, some good basketball.”