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Clark with a hot hand for Missouri

by Brandon Foster | January 5, 2016 at 4:00 a.m. | Updated May 12, 2016 at 12:40 a.m.
Wes Clark of Missouri looks back after he made a 3-pointer during a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last month at Mizzou Arena.

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Missouri men's basketball team begins conference play Wednesday at Georgia and it couldn't come at a better time for Wes Clark.

The junior guard is coming off a career-high 22-point performance against Savannah State, which bested a 21-point night just nine days earlier.

"Certainly I hope that Wes will continue to play at that level that he has played at," Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. "And I hope that other guys will help him out."

Prior to Missouri's Dec. 23 game against Illinois, Clark was shooting just 24-of-79 (30.4 percent) from the field. In his last three games, he has made 20-of-33 attempts (60.6 percent), with an 11-point performance against Arkansas-Pine Bluff sandwiched between his two 20-point nights.

"He's been on fire these past three games," freshman Terrence Phillips said. "So going in for me as a point guard that loves to pass, we've got to get Wes the ball, get him off to a good start, especially on (the) road.

"Because on the road, shooting is really just a confidence thing. You see one go through and you get a little more confidence. You see two or three go through and it could be a whole different ball game. So for me as a point guard, getting him the ball early in great positions and in great spots is going to be a big factor going into this road game."

Clark, who was not made available to the media Monday, missed the last eight games of his sophomore season after dislocated his right elbow. As a right-handed shooter, Clark is still dealing with some "nicks and nacks" in the elbow, he said after the Illinois game, but it is now "for the most part 100 percent."

"(It doesn't) necessarily affect the shots," he said before Missouri's Dec. 9 game against Omaha, "but sometimes it may mess with me a little mentally. Sometimes I might think about it, but I don't think it's really had too much of an effect. ... It just changes the pace a little bit for me. It changes my feel. It's not the same. But I try to make it up in other areas like playing defense and getting rebounds and things like that."

Clark said he is taking the same shots as he was earlier in the season. They're just falling now - something he expected to come around when he was still struggling to make shots.

"It definitely will," he said then. "I still make shots on a regular basis when I shoot (in practice) and stuff, so I can get a feel for it. It's just a little different for me at times."

Missouri will need Clark as a scoring weapon now that it is entering Southeastern Conference play. Clark and freshman Kevin Puryear (10.1 and 11.8 ppg) are the only players averaging double-digit scoring totals for the Tigers, who host Auburn on Saturday after playing Georgia.

"I think we really need a consistent scorer and a guy that can fill it up every night," senior Ryan Rosburg said. "So I mean we just want (Clark) to keep doing what he's been doing."

Clark's change in fortune on the court has been noticeable in the locker room as well.

"He's a little more loose. I can honestly say that," Phillips said. "I think the first few games he was really uptight. I don't know what that was with him, but the past few games he's been a little more loose and he's laughing and joking in the locker room a lot more.

"I know that's just him happening to play well, but I'm loving him right now. I've always loved him, but I love the way he's playing right now."

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