Fans at Mizzou Arena were treated to a rare sight Saturday midway through the second half of an 81-50 rout against Savannah State.
Zipping down the floor in transition, junior guard Wes Clark elevated to deliver a right-handed jam with 12:55 remaining before halftime.
Asked how many dunks he’s had in his 69-game MU career, Clark pondered for a moment: “I want to recall two, maybe three.”
He then glanced toward Tigers coach Kim Anderson and sophomore guard Namon Wright.
“I don’t recall a whole lot,” Anderson wryly said as the postgame press room echoed with laughter.
It was all part of another career night for Clark, who rebounded from an early-season shooting slump to helped Missouri surge above .500 as nonconference play drew to a close.
“It’s been better than it was last year,” Anderson said. “I’m happy in the fact that we won seven games and we beat everybody on paper we were supposed to beat. Not everybody’s done that.”
Anderson said he wished Missouri, 7-6, had knocked off one of the high-major opponents it lost against, but that “it’s water under the bridge” now that SEC play arrives Wednesday with a game a Georgia.
Clark, who went 9 of 10 from the field, was an unstoppable force offensively, resetting his career high for the second time in three games with 22 points, despite sitting for the final 12 1/2 minutes.
“Every team would like to have that guy that, when the stuff doesn’t work that you can give the ball to and he can make a play,” Anderson said. “He’s (Clark) done that the last two or three games. It’s certainly a big boost to us.”
Clark, whose dunk with 12:55 remaining came near the end of a 23-6 run to open the second half, has averaged 18 points on 20-of-33 shooting with 3.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds in the last three games.
He checked out after his dunk and watched the rest of the Tigers’ 31-point win.
Coupled with MU’s 53-point victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Tuesday, it marks the first time since December 2012 that the program has won consecutive games by at least 30 points.
“We’re riding high and we’re just trying to stay confident,” said Wright, who scored 11 with a career-high eight rebounds. “As long as we play together as a team and stay confident, we’ll be fine.”
Missouri, 7-6, led by 16 points at halftime and didn’t let off the accelerator in the second half.
Savannah State committed seven turnovers and didn’t get off a single shot during the opening 4 1/2 minutes of the second half.
Clark had two layups as the Tigers rattled off 12 straight points to begin the second half. The lead eventually reached 30 on Clark’s dunk, which brought an eruption from the crowd of 6,037.
“He actually dunks a lot, just not in the games,” said freshman guard K.J. Walton, who started for the second straight game. “I’m glad he got one tonight.”
Wright and Walton, whose 10 points was one shy of a career high, joined Clark in double figures.
Savannah State, 4-7, didn’t have any players reach double figures and shot only 33.9 percent as a team. Missouri finished at 53.6 percent.
After shooting better than 50 percent from the field in only one game last season — a win against Oral Roberts (51 percent) — the Tigers have done it three times this season, including the season opener against Wofford (56.0 percent) and against Northern Illinois (53.8 percent).
“Obviously, these last two games are teams we should beat,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat that, no disrespect to the opponent. Although, I think the way we’ve done it is good and maybe it’s given us some confidence.”
Missouri, which dominated points in the paint 42-22 and won the rebounding battle 40-30, was especially efficient on offense in the first half — shooting 17 of 24, a 70.8-percent clip.
After starting the game 2 of 5 from the field, Missouri hit 13 of 14 shots during an 12-minute stretch on the way to the best-shooting half of the Anderson era and a double-figure halftime lead.
Clark’s buzzer-beater at the halftime horn made it 41-26 and Missouri led by as many as 36 in the second half on a jumper by Wright near the 3-minute mark.
Sophomore Jakeenan Gant and senior Ryan Rosburg each had five rebounds, while freshmen Terrence Phillips, who had a team-high six assists with no turnovers, and Kevin Puryear snatched boards four each.