Missouri was one Wes Clark free throw from overtime and two from victory against Arkansas on Jan. 24 at Mizzou Arena, the fifth loss in the current 11-game skid.
If the Tigers are going to snap the longest losing streak in nearly four decades against the Razorbacks at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark., it will be without Clark.
Clark, who suffered a season-ending dislocated right elbow last week, only scored eight points in the first meeting with Arkansas, but he also had six assists and five rebounds.
His defense on Razorbacks junior Michael Qualls also was a key in allowing MU to hang tough.
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“Wes had really emerged as a guy who could guard just about any guard, at least do a good job on them,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “Qualls is a little bit bigger, but that didn’t really bother Wes … so that is a problem.”
Freshmen guards Namon Wright, Montaque Gill-Caesar and junior guard Deuce Bello are the most likely candidates to draw the assignment against Qualls in this meeting, though it probably will be more by committee than the first meeting.
Missouri also will use a committee to help senior guard Keith Shamburger bring the ball up the floor against Arkansas’ vaunted full-court press.
“We’ll have to share it and have some other guys step up and play,” Anderson said. “We’ll just kind of do it by committee. Hopefully, Keith can do it most of the time, but Namon and (Gill-Caesar) and, even if we have to go to Johnathan (Williams III) to help handle the ball a little bit, we’ll do that.”
Those are among the handful of adjustments the Tigers face against an 18th-ranked Hogs squad that has won four straight games and seven of its last eight.
Meanwhile, Missouri, 7-18 and 1-11 in the SEC, lugs the longest losing streak since 1966-67 into the game.
“It’s difficult,” Anderson said. “Probably no one involved with this team has ever lost 11 games in a row. I think our guys all come from successful programs and they all come from AAU programs. … What we’ve tried to do is focus on getting better.
“Our biggest problem has been consistency and being able to finish a game. We’ve had several games where we’ve had opportunities to win down the stretch, and we haven’t been able to make plays.”
Anderson said part of it is youth and inexperience, but that doesn’t make it easier to swallow.
“It is what it is, and I’ve said this several times, nobody is more disappointed than me with where we’re at, but nobody’s more excited than me about where we’re going,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of work to do to get this program back to where it has been. The only way to do it is to roll your sleeves up and go to work.”
The Tigers, who nipped Arkansas 75-71 last season in Fayetteville, will be counting on another big game from Williams, who scored a career-high 27 in a three-point loss Saturday against Mississippi State.
“Obviously, when you lose this many games in a row, you’re trying to find some bright spots,” Anderson said. “I thought Johnathan Williams III was outstanding against Mississippi State, probably the best game I’ve seen him play. He took the game over and, certainly, if we’re going to be competitive here these last few games, we need him to do that.”