Sophomore guard Wes Clark emerged as Missouri’s best player and a team leader during SEC play, so his absence leaves a gaping hole in the lineup for first-year coach Kim Anderson.
Clark’s season is finished after he suffered a dislocated right elbow Tuesday in a loss against South Carolina. He started all 11 conference games and averaged a team-high 11.7 points with a team-best 16 steals.
“That was a huge blow to our team,” Anderson said.
Replacing that production will be difficult for the Tigers — who are mired in a 10-game losing streak, the program’s worst in nearly a half-century.
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Missouri, 7-17 and 1-10 in the SEC, hopes to arrest its slide at 3 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena against Mississippi State, 11-13 and 4-7.
Senior transfer Keith Shamburger has served as the Tigers’ primary ball-handler throughout the season. He may not leave the floor, barring injury, for the remainder of the season.
Finding support for Shamburger is another issue MU’s staff and players must address.
“Keith will be the guy and, depending on who’s available to play, we’ll have some other guys prepared to handle the basketball some,” Anderson said. “But that is certainly a major concern for us.”
The only other point guard on the roster is freshman Tramaine Isabell, who has missed the last four games after he was suspended for his attitude and behavior toward coaches and teammates.
Two other freshmen guards, Montaque Gill-Caesar and Namon Wright, have been suspended for the last two games, leaving Missouri extremely thin in the backcourt before Clark’s injury.
The only other guards on the roster are junior Deuce Bello, a junior transfer from Baylor who has started the last two games already without Wright and Gill-Caesar, and sophomore Jimmy Barton, a walkon who must sit out this season after transferring from Houston Baptist.
“I’m just going to have to be more aggressive,” said Shamburger, who played two seasons at San Jose State and last season at Hawaii before transferring to MU as a graduate student.
“Last game, I was more aggressive, but this game I’m going to have to be a lot more aggressive than I’ve ever been this year at all,” Shamburger said. “I’m going to have to go to my San Jose days, where I had to be aggressive and really get the ball in the basket. I’m going to have to do that again.”
Freshman forward D’Angelo Allen also might be pressed into action on the wing. He scored 10 points, including three three-pointers, in that role against the Gamecocks.