Toughness trumps touch in Tigers’ road win at Auburn

The Missouri Tigers showed their toughness Saturday, dominating the boards (54-33), allowing few uncontested shots and coming away with more than their share of scrums for loose balls.

John Reed

Three TV takeaways from Missouri’s 70-68 victory at Auburn on Saturday afternoon:

Toughness there, shooting not so much

After the Tigers lost to Georgia on Wednesday night, coach Frank Haith said he was most disappointed by a lack of toughness shown by his players. To win on the road, Haith added, Missouri would have to be tougher. He promised they would be, too.

Tougher the Tigers were Saturday afternoon. They dominated the boards (44-28), allowed few uncontested shots and came away with more than their share of scrums for loose balls.

Touch, however, is what they lacked. The Tigers had their second straight bad shooting game, finishing at 32.7 percent (17 for 52) after shooting 39.3 percent against Georgia. At one point in the first half, they were 5 for 23.

But toughness won out over touch in this one.

Inside help

Whether it was Ryan Rosburg’s early foul trouble or because Haith was tired of watching Tony Criswell hoist jump shots, a couple of little-used Missouri bigs saw good minutes in the first half.

The way freshman Torren Jones and junior college transfer Keanau Post sparked the Tigers, they should see more time in the games ahead. Although both had trouble getting off their shots underneath the basket, they provided a needed lift on the boards. Post finished with six rebounds and scored his first points since November.

Jones grabbed seven rebounds and made all four of his free throws in the first half, not bad for someone who had played double-digit minutes only once. He ended up with a game-high 11 rebounds and one nearly game-costing mistake. After he pulled down a missed free throw with seconds to go, Jones stepped on the out-of-bounds line to give Auburn one last try. It did not get off a shot.

The Clarkson dilemma

Haith also was critical of Jordan Clarkson after the Georgia game, saying that the junior transfer needed to pass the ball more. While Missouri indeed would benefit from better ball movement, a responsibility that typically falls on your point guard, Clarkson’s strength is his scoring. He scores most of his points on drives to the basket, which requires him to have the ball in his hands.

If Clarkson didn’t go for a team-high 20 points — on 6-of-11 shooting — the Tigers very likely would be 0-2 in the SEC. Give Haith credit for taking some of the passing pressure off Clarkson by playing Wes Clark — a true point guard — for 33 minutes against Auburn. That was the most the freshman from Michigan has played in a game. With Clark on the floor, Clarkson was free to catch and go without as much concern about running the offense.

Coming out of a timeout with just more than a minute to go and the Tigers up one, Haith put the ball in Clarkson’s hands and he did what he does best. He made a nifty drive that he finished with his right hand for a basket that should have given the Tigers a three-point lead. The two points, however, were waved off because Clarkson was called for charging. Earlier in the season, when the charge/block call was going to the offensive player a majority of the time, that play likely would have had a different outcome.

But Missouri — because of its toughness on the other end — still was able to hang on.

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