Clarkson proving he can do more than just distribute the rock as Mizzou’s floor general

COLUMBIA, Mo. — After the Missouri Tigers’ opening
win last week, interim coach Tim Fuller said he received a text message
from the father of point guard Jordan Clarkson.

“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
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