Dixon comes through on the big stage

The freshman led Missouri with 15 points.

Freshman guard Michael Dixon puts up a shot Sunday during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y. "I thought he was real pivotal in what took place today," Coach Anderson said about Dixon. "He didn't look like a freshman out there."

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The parallel wasn't lost on sophomore guard Kim English.

Sitting in a somber Missouri locker room after losing to West Virginia, English remembered his coming-out party in last year's NCAA Tournament: a 17-point performance against Marquette in the second round.

To his right was the locker of freshman guard Michael Dixon, who had just experienced a marquee game of his own in his first tournament.

Dixon put up a team-high 15 points on 6-of-10 from the field, keeping Missouri in the game in pivotal moments. Although the Tigers couldn't pull out the win this time around, English was still drawn to his performance against the Golden Eagles.

"I thought about that lot because I played well in our second round game last year, and he played amazing (today)," English said.

For Missouri, there wasn't much to be happy about regarding the end of its season. But optimism arose when Dixon came up.

"He's going to have a great future here as a Tiger," senior guard J.T. Tiller said. "He came in here fearless, willing to do anything to keep us in the game. He really put us on his back and kept us in there single-handedly."

From the looks of his aggressive play, it didn't seem Dixon was intimidated playing in his first NCAA Tournament. As soon as he came into the game, Dixon made his presence known.

Coming in at 13:47 with the Tigers down 15-8, the freshman quickly brought Missouri to within a point of the Mountaineers.

Taking a pass from English, Dixon got a fastbreak layup and followed up soon after by driving to the hoop and cutting West Virginia's lead to 15-14.

Dixon did it again at 10:53 by hitting a 3-pointer to make the game 18-17 in favor of the Mountaineers. Despite playing only eight minutes, Dixon led the Tigers at the half with seven points.

By the end of the game, Dixon provided Missouri with its most efficient performance, with his 15 points coming in 17 minutes.

"I thought I saw a young player kind of grow up a little bit more," coach Mike Anderson said. "It's one thing to be in the tournament, but then to come in and play in it as a freshman and to play well, I thought he was real pivotal in what took place today, as we made a run back in the game."

It was a not a career-best performance (that came when he scored 16 against Illinois in December), but it was one where Dixon shined under the brightest lights.

"There's not bigger stage than the NCAA Tournament in college, so if he's doing that as a freshman, I can only imagine what he's going to do his sophomore through senior years," Tiller said.

English knows what that kind of performance can have on a player. After being a contributing player last year, English led the Tigers in scoring this season.

Although Dixon might not vault that high, his performance certainly cannot hurt his outlook for next season.

"It's just going to give him confidence going into the summer," English said. "Working on his game, knowing that he's been here, been to this tournament before, played well. Next year, he'll have another great tournament because he's played well here before."

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