COLUMBIA - Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson have lit up the scoreboard for the Missouri Tigers this season, as the junior duo has combined to score 52 percent of Missouri's points.
That's why it was so surprising to see them struggle mightily during Tuesday's 71-56 loss at Georgia. The pair combined to go 9-for-29 from the field, despite scoring 17 points apiece.
With Missouri on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble, third-year head coach Frank Haith believes his star players are trying to do too much.
"We have to work at that. I sensed that in the Georgia game," he said. "Both those guys are pressing. It's because they want it so badly, those guys want to be in the NCAA Tournament. I saw those things out of both those guys, taking shots that they haven't taken all year, consistently contested shots. Just forcing the issue a little bit. It's because they want it so badly and they're pressing.
"I love them for it, but we just have to get them to continue to understand just to let the game come to them, the way they've been doing it all year. Trust one another, trust their teammates. ... Hopefully they'll get back to playing the way they've been playing."
With Brown (20.1 points per game) and Clarkson (18.6 ppg) shouldering so much of the scoring load for the Tigers, it's understandable they'd want to step up when they desperately need a win.
"Those guys feel the heat, that they've got to score, that they've got to do certain things," Haith said. "You still have to give the offense a chance and not take it on the first side. When you've got guys all over you and they're hedging hard on screens, you've got to continue to move it and get it within the offense when there's opportunities and get a better attempt."
Haith held a private film session with Brown and Clarkson on Wednesday, pointing on where they went astray.
"Some of our shots, they were a little more contested than what we usually take," Clarkson said. "... I don't think we're pressing, I think we just want to win. We're trying our hardest and trying to do whatever we can."
Added Brown: "I already watched it on my own. When I saw it again it just validated what I had seen already. ... Just some shots that weren't necessarily bad shots, but we could have got a better shot.
"He just wanted us to trust the offense and keep the ball moving a little bit more."
Haith realizes just how important it is for Brown and Clarkson to heed his advice.
"When you're a really good player, you have to be able to go into a game and adjust to how you're being defended and not get out of character," he said. "They have to trust one another, they have to trust the other players on this team. We're not going to go where we want to be unless that happens.
"I don't want them to feel that pressure is what I'm saying. I don't want them to think, "I've got to go out and get 25 for us to win.' You're not going to win a lot when you do that. Jabari's our leading scorer, Jordan's our second-leading scorer, we know that, but you have to get it within the offense."
With a third guard, Earnest Ross, the only other Tiger in double figures at 14.3 ppg, Brown and Clarkson haven't had a lot of help in the scoring department. But that was expected.
"I think we knew what we were getting into earlier in the season," Clarkson said, alluding to the duo's prolific scoring ability being a necessity. "Guys really stepped up, though, throughout the year. We just have to keep it consistent. That's probably the biggest thing."
Despite Haith's claims Brown and Clarkson are pressing, they both rejected that notion.
"We just know we have to do what we've been doing all year," Clarkson. "We can't have no slack like we had last game, where we both have an off game. We're just trying to win. We know we have to put good games together for us to have a chance to do that. We can't slack off."
Added Brown: "Just as a competitor, you always feel like you can make things happen. Some nights you're not going to hit those shots.
"I feel all right. I feel good about where I'm at physically and mentally going into this last stretch."
And if Missouri is to make the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers will need Brown and Clarkson to return to form.