With the player many expect to be Missouri's best on the bench with foul trouble, a freshman playing his first college game stepped in to lead the Tigers to a season-opening 89-53 laugher over Southeastern Louisiana.
Jordan Clarkson picked up his second foul just 3:26 into the game and interim coach Tim Fuller called on Wes Clark. The freshman from Michigan responded with 10 points, three assists, a steal and no turnovers in the first half as the Tigers took a 44-19 lead into the break.
"We've seen those two a lot in practice and there is no dropoff," Fuller said. "When Wes comes in the game, he has the same energy and the same burst in a different way. He plays with a lot of pace. I was surprised at him going three-for-three from three."
"He came in and played real well. He played at his own pace. He doesn't let the game speed him up and he makes good decisions," Jabari Brown said. "I think he's going to just get better and better with more game experience."
Missouri needed 68 points from Clarkson, Brown and Earnest Ross to survive a scare from Central Missouri in its last game. This time out the supporting cast was much more, well, supportive.
Mizzou got 30 bench points, including 19 in the first half from Clark and Stefan Jankovic. The extra offense was a welcome sight for Fuller, who is now 1-0 in his head coaching career.
"That's one thing that I was focused on tonight. I just wanted to give other guys confidence," Fuller said. "Because I know there's gonna be a game where Jordan's in foul trouble, Jabari's not hitting and Earnest can't get his shot going. We're gonna need Stefan, we're gonna need Ryan, we're gonna need Wes Clark to do what they did tonight."
The Tigers used a 30-3 run to open up a 44-14 lead in the first half and Southeastern Louisiana was never closer than 20 the rest of the way. The second half was more of the same. Clark had a quiet second stanza, the final three points on his line coming on an off-balance buzzer-beating 25-footer that put the Tigers up 86-49.
Brown led the Tigers with 19 points, Ross had 12 and Clarkson 14, all in the second half, in 23 foul-plagued minutes. Mizzou hosts Southern Illinois on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. This time around, Fuller will have a game as the lead man under his belt.
"I almost feel like coach Haith is not gone. He's a part of me. He helped raise me since I was 19 years old so I quietly hear him talking as I'm out there coaching," Fuller said. "I was emotional in the locker room before I went out and really my stomach was turning. But once I talked to the team and went out, I knew we just had to win. Once I stepped on the floor, coaching just took over."