COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Missouri Tigers eventually will have to get some scoring from their frontcourt. It just hasn't become a necessity yet.
Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross - a terrific trio of guards - can't do it all alone every time out. But they were able to do it against the Southern Illinois Salukis, as the threesome combined for 59 points to carry Missouri to a 72-59 victory Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
Clarkson was especially impressive, tallying a career-high 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting to go along with five assists and three rebounds. He didn't have a turnover while playing all 40 minutes. Clarkson's previous high was 23 points while at Tulsa.
"(Interim head) coach (Tim) Fuller just tells us to attack the paint," Clarkson said. "I think we did a good job of that tonight. Having a deadly shooter (Brown) coming off the drives like that, they have to pick either one. It's fire and ice. We did a good job exploiting that.
"It always feels good to have a game like that."
Brown tallied 17 points while Ross added 11 to round out three Tigers in double figures.
Missouri's post players, on the other hand, combined for just nine points, led by six for Johnathan Williams III.
"I think some guys are scorers and other guys have different roles," Fuller said. "... We don't have a post player that we're going to ask to score 20 and 10. We're trying to get that out of all three guys - Ryan (Rosburg), Keanau (Post) and Torren (Jones) - versus just trying to get it out of one guy."
Southern Illinois proved a stiff test in the first half, giving Missouri everything it could handle. The Salukis hit 45 percent of their shots and held a 22-20 edge in rebounds over a much bigger Tiger squad in the first 20 minutes.
Southern Illinois entered the break down just a point thanks to a stingy 2-3 zone that forced Missouri to take long jump shots early in the shot clock. Southern Illinois eventually capitulated in the second half after that early scare.
"We were really good until the head coach made a decision to switch defenses right before we went into the locker room," Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson said, referring to a switch to man-to-man. "I don't know who that guy is, but they should drug-test him tomorrow. ... What a stupid idiot."
That was a curious decision indeed, one that helped change the early tide.
After opening up a 7-2 lead, the Tigers allowed a 12-3 run that handed Southern Illinois a 14-10 advantage thanks to 10 early points from Desmar Jackson.
A sluggish Missouri gradually built a 32-25 lead and clung to a 35-34 edge at at halftime.
It was the Missouri backcourt - led by Clarkson - that took over after the break, scoring all but 10 of the Tigers' 37 second-half points. Clarkson's ability to drive the lane made all the difference, as he tallied 19 points in the second half while attempting just one 3-pointer.
"Thank God we had a scouting report that said let him shoot the perimeter shot and don't let him drive," Hinson said. "Our focus tonight was that of a 4-year-old.
"He was a ninja blender he was in the lane so much tonight. It was unbelievable. He just kicked our (behind)."
A ninja blender?
"I ain't got no blender at the house," Clarkson quipped.
An early 8-2 run gave Missouri a 45-38 advantage capped by a 3-pointer from Wes Clark near the top of the key. The Tigers were able to keep the Salukis at arm's length the rest of the way, as Southern Illnois never got closer than five.
Missouri's biggest lead came at 71-53 points on an old-fashioned three-point play from - who else - Clarkson late in the contest.
"In the second half we just put the ball in the hands of our best players and let them make plays," Fuller said.
Rosburg corralled a game-high nine rebounds on his 20th birthday, but Missouri managed to tie Southern Illinois with 37 rebounds.
Jackson led the Salukis with 17 points. Southern Illinois (0-1) hosts Saint Louis University on Saturday.
Missouri (2-0) faces Hawaii (2-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.