COLUMBIA — Playing Texas, it’s nothing personal for Marshall Brown and Jason Horton.
Forget that both players grew up in Texas, were recruited by Longhorns coach Rick Barnes and have looked up at Texas in the Big 12 Conference standings in each of the past three men’s basketball seasons.
It’s really just a coincidence that in their last chance to beat Texas, both scored season-highs in a 97-84 win Saturday at Mizzou Arena that ended the Tigers’ nine-game losing streak to the Longhorns.
Or so they’d have you think.
“I don’t think the fact that it was Texas had anything to do with it,” said Brown, who grew up in Austin, Texas. “It just happened to be Texas that we were playing that night.”
Coming off the bench, Brown scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes. Since transfer DeMarre Carroll replaced him in the starting lineup this season, Brown was averaging 4.6 points in 12 minutes going into Saturday’s game.
“They’re just another team in the Big 12,” said Horton, a Dallas native. “I’d much like to beat everybody else too.”
Horton, who was scoring 2.8 points per game, dropped a season-high 16 on the Longhorns without missing a shot.
“They are both from Texas and Marshall is from Austin, Texas,” coach Mike Anderson said. “So you’ve got to be happy for those guys, that they played well.”
It’s not the first time Brown has played well against his hometown team, the one he cheered for growing up. As a starter last year, Brown unloaded 24 points and nine rebounds in a loss at Texas, a big improvement on his season averages of 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.
Still, “I think it’s a coincidence,” Brown said.
It’s not hard to see why the duo would want to beat Texas. They turned the Longhorns down to play for Quin Snyder in 2004-05, but have endured three mediocre seasons and a coaching change while Texas has never missed the NCAA Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 in 2006.
Horton admitted that he has doubts about his decision to come to Missouri but never regretted his decision.
“At some times, maybe I was like ‘Damn, maybe I should have went to Texas,’ but that goes through everybody’s minds,” Horton said. “I feel like I made my decision for the right reason and whatever happens happens.”
If Saturday’s game is any indication, whatever happens could be good for Missouri’s only four-year seniors.
Horton, known more for his consistently tough defense than his scoring, regained his spot in the starting lineup midway through the season and has quietly been one of Missouri’s most important players.
“He is one of those guys that goes in and does all the dirty work, gets people open,” Brown said. “He runs the team, he is a head on the floor, he gets people in the right place and gets people the ball and puts them in position to score. The fact that he’s not scoring doesn’t mean that he isn’t having a big impact on the game.”
And lately he has been scoring. Horton scored 11 against UMKC on Tuesday, then a season high, and says he is now more confident and relaxed on offense.
“I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to help my team, and I felt like I needed to do more,” Horton said. “And that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Senior year hasn’t been quite so kind to Brown. After starting 29 games last year, Brown has started only once this season and had only played more than 20 minutes once before Saturday.
With the taller Carroll stepping in at the forward position, Brown spent the offseason working on his offense and jump shot, and it finally showed on Saturday. Brown hit some key jump shots and made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 34 late in the first half.
“Anytime you play an opponent like this, the bench is always going to be an important part,” Brown said. “I knew I was going to be one of the key guys coming off the bench, and I just wanted to go in there and give energy.”
The program and their positions in it have changed a lot since Brown and Horton joined four years ago, but after a convincing win over No. 12 Texas to start Big 12 play, it might finally be the year for Missouri to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
After three years of up and down basketball, Brown and Horton know not to get their hopes up just yet.
“For me, to get this win was big, but we need to keep it in perspective, we know it’s one game and there are 15 conference games left,” Brown said. “So we’ve got a lot of basketball to play.”