COLUMBIA — Michael Dixon Jr. knows how to sneak up on you.
Just ask North Florida guard Brad Haugabrook. Early in Saturday's game at Mizzou Arena, Haugabrook looked for an open player to pass the ball to. Little did he know that Dixon was lurking.
After Haugabrook passed the ball, Dixon made his move, deflecting the pass with a swimming-like motion. Dixon beat Haugabrook to the loose ball and, after a few dribbles, found teammate Marcus Denmon running down the other side of the court. Dixon lofted the ball to Denmon, who laid it in for an easy layup to give the Tigers a 9-0 lead.
On the previous possession, Dixon had also made a steal that led to Missouri points.
“It’s anticipation,” said Dixon, a sophomore guard. “You see a guy, you read his eyes and before he throws the ball, you just go where he’s going to throw the ball.”
Dixon and the Tigers put together a strong defensive effort in Saturday's 96-58 win against the Ospreys. Missouri forced 34 turnovers, a record at Mizzou Arena, and scored 30 points off those turnovers.
“Your utilizing your quickness, your utilizing your instincts,” Missouri head coach Mike Anderson said. “The pressure defense was very good, the best it’s been at this point.”
Dixon finished with five steals, four of which came in the first half. During the team’s last game against Western Illinois on Thursday no Tiger had more than two steals.
“I think I was just in the right place at the right time,” Dixon said. “My teammates would play team defense, and I was just in the right position to make some plays.”
While Dixon was humble about his steals, Denmon said Dixon was the commander of the defense.
“Defense always starts with your point guard, and he really came out with a lot of energy, which everyone else then fed off of,” Denmon said.
Dixon and the rest of Missouri’s defense wore the Ospreys down throughout the game. Missouri jumped to an early 16-2 lead, forcing eight turnovers.
During the final nine minutes of the game the Tigers forced six turnovers and prevented North Florida from scoring a field goal. The only Osprey points during the stretch came off of two free throws.
Along with leading the defense, Dixon was nearly perfect shooting the ball. He finished with 11 points, going 2-for-2 on field goals and 6-for-8 at the free-throw line.