Missouri freshman Jason Horton probably had the game of his life Wednesday night against Illinois.
His superior play didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He scored eight points and had four assists in 35 minutes, but he played great defense against one of the best point guards in the nation.
Horton helped limit Illinois’ Dee Brown to 11 points and helped put Missouri in good situations especially when Missouri was trying to make a second half comeback. Snyder said it was good to see Horton take steps forward in his game.
“Jason’s investing more,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “It’s pretty simple and he’s learning.
“It was good for Jason to be able to see what that level is. Like all of us, I mean it’s the No. 1 team in the country.”
TAKING IT TO THE LINE: For two games in a row Linas Kleiza has shown that getting him the ball inside causes all sorts of problems for opponents. In the second half, Kleiza started driving inside and quickly got the Illini into foul trouble.
This forced Illinois coach Bruce Weber to change up his rotation and helped get the Tigers back into the game.
“I’ve said all along our problem mark would be our post guys and how they defend,” Weber said. “Kleiza’s a little different cause he can go inside and outside and they just isolated him and, you know, he just basically takes it at you.”
Kleiza really took it at the Illini, too. He scored 11 of his game-high 25 points from the line.
Kleiza said he started taking the ball to the basket more in the second half because Snyder told him to.
“In a couple of previous games I was just taking some fade-away jump shots and all that but then, especially in the second half, I really decided (to go to the basket) because I just felt like I could go by these guys,” Kleiza said.
HEAD GAMES: Late in the second period, Illinois was threatening to score when the ball got loose.
It seemed that no one could get control of the ball until the Horton and Illinois guard Luther Head found themselves struggling for the ball near the out-of-bounds line.
Horton came up with it but was starting to fall out of bounds. He quickly bounced the ball off of Head’s head and out of bounds.
Missouri got possession of the ball but Kleiza got called for traveling and the Tigers were unable to convert.
CHEERLEADERS’ BRAGS DON’T SAG: Even though Missouri lost this season’s Braggin’ Rights game, Tigers fans had something to brag about: the Missouri cheerleaders.
With 7 minutes left in the first half, a TV timeout was called and both the Tigers and Illini cheerleaders lined the floor in pairs made up of one male and one female.
Then each pair performed a stunt where the male lifted the female until his arms were fully extended.
Then the female balanced on one leg with her other foot bent at her knee and her arms extended. The pair that held the position the longest won.
It didn’t take long for cheerleading pairs to start dropping one by one. Finally, it came down to one Missouri team and one Illinois team.
Tigers cheerleaders John Stipanovich and Misty Nowack won the competition and also won over the crowd with the victory.