Desmar Jackson led SIU with 17 points.
Nov. 12, 2013
By Tom Weber
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Missouri pulled away in the second half of a surprisingly competitive game to down Southern Illinois, 72-59, on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena.
The taller, more athletic Tigers (2-0) led by just one at halftime against a club picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference, but Jordan Clarkson was the difference in the game, scoring 19 of his 31 points in the second half to spark Mizzou.
The Salukis (0-1) did not resemble the team that struggled in their two exhibition games against Division II opponents. They compensated for their lack of size by dropping into a 2-3 zone on defense, which seemed to stymie the Tigers' offense at times.
Desmar Jackson scored 10 of the first 12 points for SIU and sent a signal that the Salukis would not just roll over. His pull-up jumper with 14:15 to go in the first half put Southern ahead, 12-10.
The most encouraging sign for the Salukis, however, came when Jackson went to the bench with his second foul with 4:15 remaining and SIU trailing, 32-25. Without their star player, Southern went on a 9-1 run that featured 3-pointers by Dawson Verhines, Mike Balogun and Marcus Fillyaw, to briefly regain the lead. One of the major question marks about this team is how good the supporting cast is for Jackson, who led his club with 17 points.
"Sometimes (Desmar) tries to hit home runs by himself," said SIU head coach Barry Hinson. "I think he has to switch modes. I think we have better players surrounding him this year, and I think if he'll do that, the game will come a little easier for him."
Clarkson was unstoppable for Missouri in the second half, helping the Tigers build a double-digit lead midway through the half that they maintained for the rest of the game. He powered his way through Southern's zone with authority.
"With our team, when they go out there and play, the hay is in the barn for us, and we just have to manage the game," said Missouri's acting head coach Tim Fuller, who is guiding the team while Frank Haith serves a five-game suspension. "In the second half, we just put the ball in the hands of our best players and let them make plays."
SIU's zone was effective against every player except Clarkson, who made 12-of-18 shots from the field and 6-of-7 from the line.
"We had a scouting report that said let him shoot a perimeter shot and don't let him drive," Hinson said. "Our focus tonight was that of a four-year-old. He was a ninja-blender he was in the lane so much tonight."
The Salukis did not play zone during their exhibitions, waiting until the regular season to spring it on an opponent.
"We've been practicing zone for quite some time," Hinson acknowledge. "We didn't want to show that in the exhibition. Because of the (officiating) rules this year, you're going to have to play a lot of zone."
Although Jackson was the only player in double figures for Southern Illinois, 10 different players scored. The Salukis ran long possessions, utilized lots of shot fakes and did a good job of reversing the basketball for open looks. They just didn't shoot the ball very well in the second half, missing all six of their 3-point tries.
"We've had 31 practices coming into this ballgame, and we've talked about playing in this type of venue since day one," Hinson said. "I told our kids coming into this game that we have to play hard, we have to play together and we have to play smart. We didn't do two out of three. We didn't play together and not because of selfish reasons, but because everybody wanted to hit the home run."
Expected to be one of the team's leading scorers, sophomore Anthony Beane struggled from the field converting 3-of-12 shots for six points for Southern. Bronson Verhinesscored eight for SIU and Balogun added seven.
"I didn't know how this game would turn out, but now looking at it, I think this game will help us," Hinson said.