If Missouri guard Jason Horton is allowing his man to score, coach Mike Anderson lets him know about it. And Anderson isn’t too kind in his way of telling him.
Horton recalls practices this season where Anderson has stopped practice to “call him out” after allowing teammate Stefhon Hannah to score on consecutive offensive possessions.
“Coach always tells me when I’m not doing a good defensive job, ‘You got no pride in your defense,’” Horton said. “I think I’m a very prideful guy, especially on defense. I take pride in not letting guys score on me.”
Saturday, in Missouri’s 71-58 win against Texas Tech, Horton took pride in the way he was able to limit the production of Texas Tech guard Jarrius Jackson, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 20.1 points per game. Jackson finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Horton, who usually matches up with the opposing team’s best offensive player, asked for the assignment of guarding Jackson. And after allowing Jackson to score seven points in the first half, Horton didn’t give up a single point to Jackson in the second half, following him all over the court, and not leaving him any space when the ball was two passing lanes away.
“Limit his touches and make him work for everything,” Horton said of guarding Jackson. “I think for the most part, I did that. He had to work. (I did) a lot less help defense. I think just being aware of where he was (helped) because he’s really one of the few 3-point shooters they have.”
Horton said the Tigers (13-6, 2-4 Big 12 Conference) knew Jackson, along with Martin Zeno, were going to take the majority of the shots for the worked for Texas Tech (15-6, 4-2 Big 12) in its two previous games, consecutive victories over top-10 teams, Kansas and Texas A&M.
By taking away Texas Tech’s top offensive weapon, Missouri disrupted the entire Red Raider offense. It wasn’t until the 10:30 mark before Texas Tech scored its first points of the second half, an offensive drought that lasted more than nine minutes.
“When you play against a Texas Tech team that’s one of the hotter teams in the league, and in the country, and you do the things we did to them in the second half, that’s a credit to our players,” Anderson said. “...I thought we did a good job. Our guys were wherever (Jackson) was. ... Jarrius is a very good basketball player. He’s not going to go 4-for-12 every night.”
When Horton came off the court eight minutes into the second half, he got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 15,061, which acknowledged his defensive performance guarding Jackson. Horton, who received some boos at times last year, waved to the crowd as he walked to the bench.
“It’s always a lot better when they’re behind you,” Horton said. “So that was definitely good to get.”
Horton said he thinks his defense has always been one of his biggest strengths. But his offense has improved this year as well, especially his shooting percentage and 3-point shooting.
In Saturday’s game, Horton made 3-of-4 shots, including a 3-pointer that left his hands one second before the shot clock buzzer sounded. Horton received the pass from teammate Stefhon Hannah only a second or two prior to getting the shot off.
“You just got to put it up. There’s really no mindset,” Horton said. “If you think too much, you’re probably not going to get it up. So it’s really more of a reaction thing.”
The made shot also allowed Missouri to set up its full-court press, which gave Texas Tech trouble at times. After making the shot, Horton stole the inbounds pass and passed the ball to a wide open Matt Lawrence standing beyond the 3-point line, who then made his only 3-pointer of the game. The two plays stretched a seven-point first-half lead into a 13-point margin, and also got the loudest reaction of the day from the Mizzou Arena crowd.
“It was big because that put us up double figures,” Horton said “We had a chance right there to really step on their neck ... I think it created momentum. The fans really got into the game after that.”
Missouri led the entire game. Getting off to a good start has been crucial for the Tigers. But more important was the fact they never let Texas Tech back in the game like they have with other teams after building large leads.
Anderson was pleased with the way the Tigers kept up their intensity throughout the game, even though they already had the lead. Horton said Saturday’s game against Texas Tech shows the Tigers have matured as a team.
“I think we’ve always been right there,” Horton said. “We’ve struggled closing out games and sometimes we dug ourselves in a hole like K-State. But if you look at those games, those are all winnable games. We just had to get over the hump.”
Getting over that hump has been difficult for the Tigers, whose season has been filled with close losses. Anderson said the difference against Texas Tech was the team’s confidence level after winning a road game in the conference on Wednesday at Colorado.
“It’s good to see our guys are getting better,” Anderson said. “I think the confidence from the Colorado game was huge for our basketball team in terms of learning how to win. We’ve been in position to win the game. But now, you got to make the plays that are the winning play.”