Salukis were down by 1 at the half
By The Associated Press
COLUMBIA — Mike Clarkson jokingly sent Missouri’s Tim Fuller a text asking the coach if he would let his son score a bit more after a 14-point performance in the Tigers’ opener.
Fuller proved prescient when he told the nervous father not to worry.
Junior guard Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 31 points and added five assists in his second game with Missouri, lifting the Tigers past Southern Illinois 72-59 on Tuesday night.
“He’s a Ninja blender,” Salukis coach Barry Hinson said.
Clarkson watched the Tigers (2-0) from the bench last season after transferring from Tulsa, where he averaged 14.2 points over two years. An all-Conference USA selection in 2011-12, Clarkson will run the point this year for Missouri after the departure of Phil Pressey to the NBA.
Clarkson scored both on the perimeter and in the paint Tuesday, but perhaps just as importantly played all 40 minutes without committing a turnover.
“Jordan has a huge basketball IQ,” Fuller said. “He’s a talent.”
Jabari Brown added 17 and Earnest Ross scored 11, as the rest of the Tigers only contributed 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. After trading baskets through the first half, Missouri used a 10-4 run in the opening 3:32 after the break for a 45-38 lead and some breathing room.
Desmar Jackson led Southern Illinois (0-1) with 17 points in the team’s season opener. The senior guard scored the Salukis’ first eight points, but battled foul trouble the rest of the game. He missed the Salukis’ second exhibition game Saturday when he arrived late and was promptly benched by Hinson. Joining him was sophomore guard Anthony Beane, who scored six points on 3-of-12 shooting Tuesday.
Missouri appeared sluggish in the early going after an 89-53 victory against Southeastern Louisiana on Friday. Clarkson led all scorers with 12 points at halftime, but reached another gear midway through the second half, at one point scoring six in a row for the Tigers to give them a 56-45 lead with 9:12 remaining.
“It always feels good to have a game like that,” Clarkson said.
He also made six of his seven free throw attempts as Missouri collectively made 17 of 27 shots from the charity stripe after shooting 55.6 percent from the line in its opener. Southern Illinois only converted three of its six attempts.
“I thought tonight, we didn’t play smart at all,” Hinson said. “Doggone it. I’m glad they didn’t give the ACT exam tonight. We wouldn’t have done very well. We wouldn’t have been eligible.”
Missouri won its 20th consecutive game at home, this time in front of a half-filled Mizzou Arena after a late tip time. The Tigers haven’t lost to a non-conference opponent on their own floor in 75 games dating back to the 2005-06 opener.
“Down by one point at halftime against Mizzou?” Jackson said. “Most people were probably expecting us to get blown out of the water by like 40 or something. That’s definitely major for us.”
Ryan Rosburg helped Missouri extend its streaks by grabbing nine rebounds in his second career start. The sophomore forward celebrated his 20th birthday by playing against a team that recruited him in his first couple years of high school.
Rosburg only played 6.9 minutes per game last season during Missouri’s 23-11 campaign, mostly acting as a defender in practice against then-senior Alex Oriakhi. Fuller said he doesn’t expect any of his post players to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds in a game, but added that he challenged Rosburg during halftime to elevate his intensity on the court.
“That’s the most important thing, is having guys on the floor that want to win,” Fuller said. “And Ryan wants to win. Ryan desires to be a part of this team. He paid his dues last year. So I know it’s in him.”
Southern Illinois briefly grabbed a 34-33 lead with 31 seconds left in the first half, causing the team’s bench to jump repeatedly in excitement. But Clarkson drove through the lane for a dunk with four seconds remaining to give Missouri the lead at the break.
Missouri faces Hawaii on Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Game time is 6 p.m.