Mizzou is ready for a battle against Vanderbilt, despite the dismissal of leading scorer Eric McClellan

01/16/2014 5:12 PM

01/16/2014 5:12 PM

This post was supposed to be about Missouri junior guard Jordan Clarkson preparing to face his former Tulsa teammate Eric McClellan when the Tigers tip off at 6 p.m. Thursday against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.

Instead, it’s about how the Commodores must adjust after McClellan, who was the team’s leading scorer,

was dismissed following academic and legal issues

.

“It’s a tough situation he’s in,” Clarkson said. “I talked to him the other day. I’m just sorry to hear, and I hope he gets through this process.”

McClellan averaged 14.3 points per game. He also led Vanderbilt in steals (1.3), was third in assists (3.2) and fourth in rebounds (4.4).

Still, the Commodores managed to push a talented Kentucky hard, so Missouri should expect the same fight.

“It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it is what it is,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said when asked during Monday’s weekly SEC teleconference about the challenge of losing McClellan. “We have other good players and other guys that have to step up. We had some guys step up on Saturday.”

The Commodores, 8-6 and losers of three of the last four games, lost junior center Josh Henderson, who averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 rebounds, to a torn ACL and MCL on Dec. 5 and are down to seven scholarship players.

“It certainly diminishes your margin for error,” Stallings said. “If a guy’s having an off night, then it’s a little more costly because your depth is dwindled. But our guys will adjust, and we’ll figure out the things that we have to do to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Much of the burden has shifted to senior forward Rod Odom, who is the leading remaining scorer at 13.2 points. He’s a long, lean small forward with excellent three-point range, and he’ll probably be the focal point of Missouri’s defensive effort.

Meanwhile, the Tigers, 13-2, can’t afford to settle for shots on offense, which could be a challenge for a team that often struggles with its passing.

“You’ve got to be patient with what you do offensively, because they’ll play primarily zone, and I don’t want us to go in there just settling for a bunch of threes,” Tigers coach Frank Haith said.

Missouri only won two games on the road last season, but a victory at Vanderbilt would its third of the season.

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