Missouri insists that fatigue hasn’t been an issue in the last month.
“I’m fine physically,” junior Jordan Clarkson said. “I’m getting my rest when I need it, so I’m fine.”
Still, both Clarkson and junior Jabari Brown, who’ve put together as fine a season as any guard combination in the country, haven’t been as efficient in recent weeks for the Tigers.
Part of it certainly could be a reflection of teams designing defenses around holding the duo in check. Nonetheless, the numbers say something has been different in recent weeks.
For instance, Clarkson shot 47.8 percent from the field in Missouri’s first 24 games, but that percentage has dipped to 35.5 percent in the last eight games.
Clarkson’s three-point percentage has dipped from 32.5 to 16.7 during that span.
He had made at least five field goals in 21 of the Tigers’ first 24 contests, including 14 games with more than five buckets. But Clarkson hasn’t topped five made shots since going eight of 15 and scoring 27 on Feb. 13 against Arkansas.
It’s a similar story for Brown, who had been shooting a scorching (and probably unsustainable) 49.8 percent from the field during the first 25 games. He was 45.7 percent from three.
But in the last seven games, including a 26-point outburst Thursday against Texas A&M in the second round of the SEC Tournament at the Georgia Dome, Brown’s only shooting 37.2 percent from the field and 24.2 percent from three.
“That’s the first thing that would come to your mind if you see the guys not shooting the ball well late is their legs,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “So, I’ve asked those guys and they both said they feel good, so that’s all I can go by.”
Brown hinted Monday that tired legs might have affected him in a one-for-10 performance last weekend at Tennessee, when he failed to hit a three or reach double figures for the first time all season.
But he said fatigue wasn’t an issue overall.
“I don’t feel fatigued, so I don’t think that’s the problem,” Brown said. “It could be, but I feel like I’m ready for the SEC Tournament and it’s not in the back of my mind or anything like that.”
Clarkson sat out last season after transferring from Tulsa, where he topped 1,000 minutes as a freshman and sophomore.
Of course, he’s racked up 1,117 minutes in a more physically demanding conference after that year off.
Brown logged 818 minutes last season in 25 games after becoming eligible at semester. Again, that came on the heels of basically a year off when he only played 51 minutes as a freshman at Oregon before deciding to transfer.
He has racked up 1,182 minutes this season.
Now, coming off a double-overtime win and staring down another early tip time against No. 1 Florida, the issue of fatigue is at the forefront.
It’s just not something the Tigers can worry about.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, so we’ve got to get them back (to the hotel), get some fluids in them, and get some food in them and just go rock ‘n’ roll at 1 o’clock (Friday),” Haith said.
The Missouri-Florida quarterfinal airs at noon in Kansas City on ESPNU.
“At the stage we’re at right now, everybody’s going to try to not even think about if they have some tired legs or anything,” Brown said. “We’ll be ready.”