Missouri hosts Southern Illinois tonight

COLUMBIA — The first game that counts is under the belt.

So the nerves should start to fade away, right?

“No, more (nerves),” Missouri interim head coach Tim Fuller quipped Monday as the Tigers host Southern Illinois-Carbondale at 8 p.m. today (FXSP-TV) at Mizzou Arena. “With football doing what they’re doing and volleyball doing what they’re doing, it’s high expectations here at Mizzou.”

The Missouri football team is 9-1 and ranked ninth in the country, while the volleyball team is 29-0 and ranked seventh in the nation. The Missouri men’s basketball team, meanwhile, is 1-0 and receiving three votes in the Associated Press poll, slotting them in a tie for 40th.

The Tigers look to slowly improve that resume tonight against a Saluki team making its regular-season debut.

“We have been able to watch two of their exhibition games, so we have a pretty decent feel for what they’re about,” Fuller said. “We know that (Anthony) Beane and (Desmar) Jackson are two highly talented guys. They could play here at the University of Missouri. Our work is cut out for us.”

Jackson averaged 15.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a season ago, while Beane accounted for 9.1 points.

“I know they have two talented wings, I’m not sure what they have in the post right now,” Missouri point guard Jordan Clarkson said of Jackson and Beane. “From what I’ve been hearing from our coaches, we have to shut down their wings and play some tough defense on them.”

Southern Illinois is coming off a 14-17 season, but is entering head coach Barry Hinson’s second year at the helm. Hinson was an assistant at Kansas from 2008-12 following a nine-year stint as Missouri State’s head coach.

“Obviously coach Hinson is familiar with what we do here having been at Kansas,” Fuller said. “He’s very familiar with the state and the talent in his time in the (Missouri Valley Conference). A battle of my wits versus his, I think he’ll win that one. Hopefully our guys can come out and do a good job.”

Missouri is coming off an 89-53 season-opening victory against Southeastern Louisiana on Friday night, a game where Jabari Brown’s 19 points led four Tigers in double figures.

“Every game under your belt is more experience and you just get more comfortable,” Brown said. “You just have to do the little things because you might win games against teams that aren’t as good, but once you start playing against higher competition those things will be exposed.”

Five Tigers made their Missouri debut Friday — Clarkson, Keanau Post and freshmen Wes Clark, Johnathan Williams III and Torren Jones. Clark was a revelation off the bench, scoring 13 points while recording team-highs in assists (four) and rebounds (seven).

“Hopefully he can continue to build on what he was able to do the other night and continue to have success as we start out this early part of the season,” Fuller said.

That performance earned Clark the Southeastern Conference freshman of the week honor.

“I really appreciate it,” Clark said. “It’s really just a piece (of paper), nothing really matters but winning. I’m honored to be player of the week and I’m looking to have some more.”

Although no world-beaters, Southern Illinois should begin a string of stiffer tests for Missouri.

“These first two games are just to see where we’re at and to see how we gel,” Clark said. “Making our way toward bigger games, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”

And maybe that will begin to calm Fuller’s nerves.

“He was amped, he was feeling pretty geeked up,” Clarkson said of Fuller’s debuting, admitting he had some butterflies himself. “It was his first game, I’m happy we got the win for him. We’ll get these next four for him too.”

Note: Tony Criswell will miss his second straight game after being suspended for a violation of team rules. “We still are a little short-handed,” Fuller said. “We’re still waiting on Tony Criswell to do what he needs to do and get off his suspension. We’re currently evaluating him daily. Hopefully he’ll be back soon.”

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