Javon Pickett has served as a critical part of the identity of Missouri men’s basketball all season long.


He’s a glue guy, a term commonly associated with Cuonzo Martin, his head coach, when Martin was a standout at Purdue in the mid-1990s, helping the Boilermakers to an Elite Eight appearance.


A gritty, hard-nosed player willing to do the small things to help his team.


Pickett’s play had been uncharacteristically quiet over the Tigers’ past two games, losses to Mississippi State and Mississippi.


The Belleville, Illinois, native took an awkward fall that gave him back discomfort against the Bulldogs, but he never blamed that incident for his lack of production.


Pickett’s fortunes changed against Alabama on Saturday afternoon, when he posted seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.


Perhaps more importantly in the Tigers’ 69-50 win over the Crimson Tide at Mizzou Arena, Pickett drew the primary defensive assignment against Alabama sharpshooter John Petty Jr., who has a scoring average of 15 points per game this season.


Petty returned to the Crimson Tide lineup after missing two straight games due to an elbow injury.


Pickett, along with some help from his teammates, held Petty to a single point and 0-for-5 shooting from the field in 34 minutes. Pickett recorded a plus-minus of plus-14; Petty had a minus-17 mark.


“I think what worked for him tonight, as opposed to other games, you could see his energy, his body language. And when I say body language, it's not like it's a bad attitude, a bad character guy,” Martin said of Pickett. “But he was in the game, you could feel him. And then you'll see him out there.


“When you can't feel him, you don't hear him, you don't see him, then that's the result. But he's a guy that needs to feed off energy, create energy, wreak havoc, so to speak, in a game, and that's what he brings to the table. Then you'll see point production, rebound production, defensive production.


“But if he doesn't have the right body language ... It's just energy. When he has that, he's good.”


Petty came into the contest fourth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 45% from beyond the arc. Petty ranks first in the Southeastern Conference and among high-level conference players in that category.


Against Pickett and Missouri, he went 0-for-4 on perimeter shots.


With one of the main cogs of the Alabama offense off his game, the Crimson Tide posted their lowest scoring output in a game this season — 17 points below their next-lowest total.


“It’s impressive. John Petty is an elite shooter,” Missouri junior Mitchell Smith said of Pickett’s defense. “So for him to do that, that’s big time. They rely on Petty to knock down shots. (Alabama) hit at least 11 3s a game. So for him not doing that, that’s good on Javon and helped our team out a lot.”


In the week leading up to the win over Alabama, Pickett was held scoreless against the Rebels and Bulldogs. The sophomore guard knows his game isn’t complete without a crisp scoring touch.


“I've been struggling a lot, especially with my jump shot,” Pickett said. “I haven't been finishing the ball well at all. So I know that that's going to happen in my life, throughout the season. So I’ve just got to be able to stay mentally focused. Whenever I have a chance to make a shot, I’ve got to be able to make it. So that's all I was really trying to do was just make sure that I finished, get the crowd going, just whatever to help our team win.”


Pickett’s resolve helped Missouri earn a first-round SEC Tournament bye with a 10th-place finish in the league.


Four events needed to occur Saturday for the Tigers to avoid playing a first-round game Wednesday in Nashville. Each happened, including a confidence-building win for the Tigers in their regular-season finale.


Pickett understands MU is 7-1 on the season when he reaches double-digit scoring. He didn’t get there against Alabama, but he realigned his performance with what he expects out of himself.


That fall against Mississippi State hasn’t gotten the best of him.


With win-or-go-home implications from here on out, Pickett knows he has to continue to deliver on the court.


“At this time of the season, you're going to be banged up,” Pickett said, “so you’ve just got to be mentally strong out there, just do whatever you can for your teammates, your brothers.”


eblum@columbiatribune.com