ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Missouri fans are expecting a significant contribution from 2004 recruit Jason Horton next season.
Horton, a point guard from Cedar Hill, Texas, is touted as a true point, a player who can run the offense and shoot from outside. Horton led Cedar Hill High to a second-place finish in Texas’ Class 5A state tournament last weekend and will likely arrive in Columbia as the Tigers’ best point guard in August.
If Horton can do half of what his older brother Daniel Horton did for Michigan on Tuesday, he will not disappoint many Tiger fans.
Daniel Horton scored a team-high 20 points, including a runner over Missouri senior forward Travon Bryant with 32 seconds left that became the difference in Michigan’s 65-64 win.
As the Wolverines worked the clock with a 63-62 lead, Horton found himself with the ball on the right wing. He drove around Missouri sophomore guard Jimmy McKinney and released a soft toss over Bryant.
The ball fluttered through and Horton, by slowing his momentum and not barreling over Bryant, avoided a charging foul.
Horton ran down the court to stop Missouri’s transition and limped noticeably while doing so. When Missouri senior swingman Rickey Paulding missed a 3-pointer and the Wolverines’ Bernard Robinson Jr. grabbed the rebound and was fouled, Horton tumbled to the ground with a cramp in his left leg.
During the play, Horton did not feel much pain. When it ended, he certainly did, pounding his arms on the floor.
“I just wanted to get back on defense, hustle or maybe help somebody box out or something,” Horton said. “They took a quick shot and I tried to get the rebound.
“I was just playing off emotion and energy by that point.”
Horton has struggled through an inconsistent sophomore season, often losing his outside shot, making him ineffective. Horton averaged 15.2 points last season, but slumped to a 9.5 average before Tuesday’s game.
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker saw some of what made Horton so successful last season against the Tigers.
“Down the stretch, Horton was the Daniel of old,” Amaker said. “He made some very big baskets and took control of the game when we needed him.”
Horton scored 12 in the second half, including a 3-pointer from the right corner that pushed the Wolverines to a 37-28 lead, their largest, with 18:34 left. The play forced Missouri coach Quin Snyder to take a timeout and the Tigers responded with a 15-1 run, but Horton had more big plays to come.
With the game tied at 55 with 4:10 left, he dribbled along the baseline and appeared to have run out of room when a Missouri defender cut off his lane to the basket. Horton dodged the defense, swooped under the basket and scored a reverse layup to give the Wolverines a lead they would not relinquish.
Missouri guard Jason Conley said the Tigers could do little to limit Horton offensively.
“He did well and we did our best to slow him down,” Conley said. “He’s just a good shooter.”
Horton predicted Monday that his younger brother would root for Michigan because he is not a Missouri player. Whether Jason Horton cheered for his brother against his future teammates is uncertain, but Horton can claim he helped end the season of his brother’s future team.
“It feels good to beat a good team, a quality team,” Horton said. “Right now, all I’m worried about is taking this program a step forward ...
“It’s something I can rib my brother about later.”
Conley said he hopes to see something out of Jason Horton next season that he saw too much of from his older brother Tuesday.
“I hope his little brother can bring the same thing for us,” Conley said.
HAPPY TO BE HERE: After being ineligible for the postseason last year, Michigan was surely disappointed to miss the NCAA Tournament this year.
Amaker, though, said he sees the NIT as an opportunity for his young team to gain postseason experience and grow as a team.
“The fact that we are in the NIT is a great accomplishment for this team,” Amaker said. “We are very proud to be invited to the NIT. I think it will be very beneficial for us in the future.”
Horton, like many Missouri players earlier this week, said he was content with being able to extend the season, no matter the tournament.
“NCAA, NIT, it’s all March Madness,” he said. “We’re just glad to be playing in the postseason.”
A.J. DOUBLES UP: With 26 points and 10 rebounds, Missouri center Arthur Johnson recorded the 44th double-double of his Missouri career. He moved into a tie for third place with former Kansas forward Drew Gooden on the Big 12 Conference list.
It was Johnson’s eighth double-double of the season.