Horton confident

Missouri’s freshman point guard
has turned into a dependable player during the Tigers’ nonconference schedule
Tuesday, January 4, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:38 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

With the clock ticking down, Missouri point guard Jason Horton calmly dribbled the basketball near half court.

Not even the piercing gaze of Gonzaga’s Dereck Raivio, who was watching his every move, could faze Horton as he moved toward the basket.

From the left wing Missouri’s Glen Dandridge moved in to set a screen on Raivio, but Horton waved him away. With less than 10 seconds left in the first half, Horton was going to take the last shot.

Backing Raivio down, Horton moved across the 3-point line and drew another defender as he approached the free-throw line. In the midst of the pressure Horton elevated and took a jumper that splashed through the basket as time expired.

Horton, a freshman, didn’t exhibit such confidence earlier in the season.

He was erratic. He was timid.

But after strong games against Montana, Indiana, No. 1 Illinois and Gonzaga, Horton has started to show signs of reliability. In these four games, Horton has committed three turnovers while making 15 assists.

“Jason’s investing more, it’s pretty simple, and he’s learning,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are growing individually, and I also think we’re growing, in that respect, collectively.”

Horton’s last-second jumper is one of several notable plays from Missouri’s recent nonconference games that has showed its commitment to improving. After tonight’s game against American and a Feb. 9 contest against UNLV, the Tigers will complete their nonconference schedule so here’s a look back at several of those other plays:

  • Fresh off hitting a 3-pointer on Missouri’s last possession, Dandridge received a pass on the right wing in the first half against Gonzaga with the opportunity to make it two in a row.

    But Dandridge knew he had a more high-percentage option. With a simple shot fake, Dandridge was able to throw off his defender, step four feet inside the arc and connect on an easy jumper.

  • As Missouri’s Kalen Grimes stepped to the free throw line, teammate Marshall Brown settled into rebounding position on the left block.

    When the ball caromed off the rim into the hands of Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, Brown pursued him as headed back the other way.

    Snyder said Brown’s awareness helped take time off the clock and showed more maturity than his 360 dunk that capped Missouri’s win against Indiana.

  • As he slid into position just below the right block, Missouri’s Jimmy McKinney braced himself for contact. Driving down the baseline, Indiana’s Sean Kline didn’t disappoint.

    Kline elevated, went up with right hand and collided with McKinney. Both players went crashing to the floor and Kline was called for a charge.

    Lying on the court, McKinney had a huge smile on his face and pumped both his fists in the air.

    McKinney’s defensive play was one of several which sparked the Tigers’ second-half comeback against the Hoosiers.

    “We’ve got a lot of heart and we’ve got a lot of courage,” McKinney said. “That’s telling you we’re growing up. Everybody in this locker room is growing up and being one.”

  • LITHUANIAN CONNECTION: In addition to Missouri’s Linas Kleiza, who’s from Kaunas, Lithuania, three other Lithuanian players will suit up for tonight’s game.

    American’s Arvydas Eitutavicius, Raimondas Petrauskas and Linas Lekavicius are all natives of Lithuania. Eitutavicius, a sophomore, grew up in Klaipeda. Lekavicius, a sophomore, is from Silale. Petrauskas, a senior, originates from Mazeikiai.

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