Conference call thoughts: January 3

Missouri coach Quin Snyder met with league media Monday morning during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. Snyder discussed the rapid development of freshman point guard Jason Horton and the Tigers' suddenly strong defense. Read on for a few thoughts from Snyder.

On the development of freshman point guard Jason Horton: "He's come a ways. For him, not being able to play for about six months this summer set him back, as far as his integration into the fabric of the team. The thing I think is really helping him right now is that he's unbelievably coachable, and he has incredible poise as well. He has really gotten to the next play a lot more efficiently and I think that's helped his concentration. He's really finding people."

On his players buying into the team concept: "Part of the theme for us has been finding out who you are and who you need to be to be successful. (Early in the season) we identified with things that weren't always going to make us consistently successful. As we have continued to listen and learn, we've begun to identify with being tough and being physical on the defensive end. That's not something you learn over night; we can continue to grow in that area. But right now, there is a will to learn."

On if a loss to Gonzaga would have decreased the impact of Missouri's second-half effort against Illinois: "I think there has been an urgency that they've started to develop, not just about our season but about each play. You can't take plays off and you can't take games off. Linas (Kleiza) said it after the Gonzaga game about the American game. That shows a maturity that's developing on their part, understanding how they've got to be all the time. The Gonzaga game confirms, I think, for them that they're doing things the right way. It confirms for our guys that we're on the right track."

On the reasons behind the Tigers' improving defense: "More than anything, players' habits are improving, but I also think they're taking ownership in it. They're playing it with more urgency and more focus. If you're young and your habits aren't terrific yet, you've got to play at an even higher energy level. We're learning to play harder; sometimes you don't know how hard you have to play until you get in certain situations. Secondly, we've been really consistent. I think you've seen our defense gel at the end of the year the past few years. I think that's what's happening, a little bit sooner. It's a collective mindset, that we're gonna be a good defensive team. Our guys have just embraced the hard work that's required."

On what the Tigers' late scoring drought against Gonzaga told him: "That we don't shot the ball very well. I thought we got some decent looks during that time span. It really shows the progress that our team has made. It's a process; we're not there yet. But, earlier in the year, we would have gotten discouraged. You would have seen breakdowns. It's tough to continue to play defense for long stretches when you don't see the ball go into the basket. I don't think we're a super-tough team mentally yet, but I think we've come a long way in a short period of time. Our guys have really begun to take pride in it and it shows the progress they have made collectively."

Black & Gold Illustrated Top Stories