Clarkson proving he can do more than just distribute the rock as Mizzou's floor general
NOV 12, 2013 10:52p ET
"He said, are you going to let Jordan score a little bit more," recalled Fuller, smiling. "I said, 'Trust me, he's going to score. Don't worry about it.'"
The coach knows. In his second game as a Tiger, Clarkson became the first Missouri player to reach 30 points since Mike Dixon in 2011. The transfer from Tulsa made 12 of 18 shots on the way to a career-best 31 points as he led the Tigers to a 72-59 victory over the outmanned Southern Illinois Salukis Tuesday night.
With Missouri up just a point at intermission, Clarkson took over in the second half by making 7 of 10 shots and scoring 19 points. He also finished with five assists, two steals and zero turnovers while playing all 40 minutes. Most of his points came inside the lane when he darted around Saluki defenders trying to take away his outside shot.
"He was a Ninja blender he was in the lane so much," Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson said. "It was unbelievable. He kicked our (tail). Every time we came out on him, he just went around us."
After scoring 14 in the opener, Clarkson is averaging 22.5 points and providing the early answer as to who will lead Missouri in scoring. But his play also raises a question: Do you really want your point guard taking twice as many shots as the total of all your post players?
"We have to win," Fuller said. "First half, we shared the basketball, we tried to move the basketball. In the second half, we put the ball in the hands of our best players and let them make plays."
Though there were a few possessions in Missouri's half-court offense when Clarkson was the only player to touch the ball, he really did not put up any ill-advised shots. When he got around the perimeter of Southern Illinois' zone defense, he either had a one-on-one situation inside against a frontcourt that featured no one taller than 6-7 or an open passing lane to Jabari Brown at the 3-point line. Brown made 3 of his 7 3-point attempts and finished with 17 points.
"Coach Fuller told us to attack the paint, so we did a good job of that," Clarkson said. "Having a deadly shooter (on the outside), they have to pick. It's fire and ice. You're going to let us take the layup or Jabari is going to knock down a 3. We did a good job of exploiting that."
Clarkson, who never scored more than 23 in his two seasons at Tulsa, was not the only Tiger to set a career high. Sophomore center Ryan Rosburg, taking advantage of expanded minutes, pulled down a career-best nine rebounds on his 20th birthday.
Fuller said he challenged Rosburg during intermission by making him stand up and look at his teammates. "I watched him against Alex Oriakhi (in practice last year) battle for loose balls, battle for rebounds," Fuller said. "I know it's in him."
Rosburg did most of his work on the defensive end, where he grabbed eight rebounds. He scored just two points, on a nifty drop step and bank shot from the left low block. But he took only two shots.
Thanks to Clarkson, Missouri didn't need much more from Rosburg or anyone else.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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