Missouri cruises to 89-53 win over SE Louisiana
Friday, November 8, 2013
COLUMBIA — No Frank Haith, no problem.
Missouri handed interim coach Tim Fuller a win in his head-coaching debut, as the Tigers rolled to an 89-53 victory against Southeastern Louisiana in the season opener Friday night at Mizzou Arena.
“I kind of got lost in the game,” Fuller said. “I was emotional in the locker room before I went out and really my stomach was turning quite heavy, but then once I talked to the team and went out, I knew we just had to win. Once I stepped on the floor, coaching just took over.”
Fuller is in charge while Haith serves a five-game suspension for his role in the University of Miami scandal.
“I almost feel like coach Haith is not gone, because he’s a part of me,” Fuller said. “I quietly hear him talking as I’m out there coaching.”
Jabari Brown led four Tigers in double figures with 19 points. Jordan Clarkson added 14, Wes Clark had 13 and Earnest Ross finished with 12.
“We just went out there and tried to play hard for coach Haith and at the same time get a win for coach Fuller,” Brown said.
Ross drilled a 3-pointer 88 seconds into the game for Missouri’s first points of the season, then drilled another trey on the next possession to fuel what became a trend.
A little too trigger-happy from the perimeter early on, launching seven 3-pointers in its first 11 shots, Missouri eventually exploited its size advantage and imposed its will in the paint. That still didn’t stop the Tigers from firing away from beyond the arc, as they finished 12-of-23 (52 percent) from 3-point range.
“I tell my guys to be aggressive,” Fuller said. “I’m not going to call off (shooting the 3) when it keeps going through the hoop.”
After a Missouri built an early 14-4 lead, Southeastern Louisiana responded with seven straight points midway through the opening half.
That’s when Missouri took over.
Stefan Jankovic drilled one from long distance, Clark followed with a mid-range jumper and Ryan Rosburg added an old-fashioned three-point play to spark a 14-0 run, and the rout was on. That was part of a 30-3 surge for the Tigers, as Missouri led 44-19 at halftime.
Clark proved to be a catalyst off the bench at the point-guard spot, accounting for 10 points and three assists in the first half while playing 16 minutes. Starting point guard Jordan Clarkson, meanwhile, saw just eight minutes in the first half after picking up a pair of fouls and was held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
“We’ve seen those two a lot in practice, and there is no drop-off when Wes comes in the game,” Fuller said. “He gives us the same energy and the same burst. ... I was surprised to see him go 3-for-3 from 3, but he makes shots.”
Clark also tied for game-highs with seven rebounds and four assists.
“Wes is a winner,” Fuller said. “We knew that when we recruited him. It’s just been about bringing that confidence to the basketball court. He’s a scrappy guard that plays with a big heart. It’s wonderful to bring another great guard off the bench.”
The Lions got within 22 early in the second half but couldn’t get any closer. JaMichael Hawkins led Southeastern Louisiana with 14 points.
Missouri’s biggest lead came at 89-51 on a 3-pointer from Corey Haith in the game’s final minute. Ten Tigers scored in the contest as they shot 54 percent for the game.
“I wanted to give other guys confidence,” Fuller said. “I know there’s going to be a game where Jordan’s in foul trouble, Jabari’s not hitting and Earnest can’t get his shot going. We’re going to need Stefan (nine points), we’re going to need Ryan (seven points), we’re going to need Wes Clark to do what they did tonight.”
One negative for the Tigers was a horrid night from the foul line, hitting just 15-of-27.
“I think it’s just concentration and taking your time up there,” Brown said. “That’s something we work on every day.”
Missouri (1-0) hosts Southern Illinois-Carbondale at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Notes: Brown and Ross earned some preseason conference recognition earlier Friday, as Brown was named to the coaches’ All-SEC first team and Ross ended up on the second team. ... The announced attendance Friday night was 7,926.
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