Missouri guard Ross putting up numbers in the shadows

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Earnest Ross isn’t just a third wheel.

The Missouri senior has consistently put up solid numbers throughout the season for the Tigers, who also happen to have two of the best guards in the Southeastern Conference.

And while redshirt juniors Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson have rightfully received their share of credit for Missouri’s success this season, Ross continues to go about his business in a quiet fashion.

“He’s played very well,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “We need him to continue that. I think he should be commended because he’s a senior and most of the year the talk has been (about) Jordan and Jabari and he’s kind of like the third guy.”

That hasn’t seemed to bother Ross.

“I think he’s handled that really well,” Haith said. “I’ve always looked at it like Earnest could have a big night too. Him being patient and understanding — I’m glad he’s having success on the court because he deserves it.”

Ross is Missouri’s third-leading scorer with 14.5 points per game, but the 6-foot-5 guard knows he doesn’t always have to put points on the board to make the Tigers successful.

“I’m just going to go out there and play tough, play hard, and just play to my advantages and use my strengths,” Ross said. “Whether that’s getting 10 rebounds, 15 rebounds, I’m going to go out there and play hard and get as many as I can.”

After all, the Tigers do have other scoring options. Brown leads the SEC with 19.8 ppg, while Clarkson is sixth in the league with 18.5 ppg.

But “when his number is called, (Ross) knows how to put it in,” Clarkson said.

That was evident Tuesday when Ross scored 24 points after going 7-of-12 from the field during Missouri’s 75-71 win against Arkansas. Ross also knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Tigers a three-point lead with 59.4 seconds left.

“I think he stays even-keeled,” Clarkson said. “I think he’s been outstanding on the boards and rebounding the ball. He’s just trying to find stuff to help us win when he’s not scoring the ball. But as you saw last game, he can score the ball. He can do a lot to contribute to this team.”

Ross, who was the top scorer off the bench in the SEC last season, has shown his versatility this year. He leads the Tigers with 29 steals, is second with 6.7 rebounds per game and has dished out a fourth-best 30 assists this season.

“He’s tough mentally,” Clarkson said. “He has a strong personality. Him just being able to take all that in and know that he can affect the game in other ways — defense, rebounding the ball.”

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