Gilbert tempers game for Tigers

Saturday, December 1, 2001

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It's no longer a case of shoot first and ask questions later for Clarence Gilbert.

A gunner without a conscience his first three seasons at No. 3 Missouri, Gilbert suddenly is just as happy dishing the ball off as he is launching 3-pointers.

"I see guys open and able to get it in the hole, so I get it to them," Gilbert said. "It's coming real easy right now. It's making me look good."

Gilbert still likes to shoot. Just like last season, he's the Tigers' second-leading scorer with an 18.3-point average, behind All-America Kareem Rush's 20.3, heading into today's game against Grambling State. He shot a team-leading 15 times in a 106-68 victory over Jackson State on Thursday night, making seven and hitting a pair of 3-pointers.

But he also had five assists and four rebounds and was charged with only one turnover. That gives him 11 assists the past two games.

He's far from the player who scored a career-high 43 points, on horrendous 12-for-36 shooting, last season in a quadruple-overtime victory over Iowa State, or put up 28 shots at Iowa. Or the player who got suspended by coach Quin Snyder for a game because of a poor attitude.

The 6-2 Gilbert has even raised his NBA stock by playing some point guard when Wesley Stokes needs a rest.

"I'd love to play with him," Snyder said. "He's taken so much pride in how he's playing."

One of Gilbert's assists led to a highlight reel dunk by teammate Rickey Paulding in the second half. Gilbert had a layup after making a steal but stopped in front of the basket and tossed it in the air for a Paulding tomahawk dunk.

"That's the type of player Clarence is," Rush said. "He wants to excite the crowd, like everyone else does, so he knew throwing it up to Rickey would do that.

"That's part of Clarence maturing and being a team player."

Gilbert actually led Missouri in assists last season, averaging four per game. That statistic often was overlooked because he averaged 17 shots per game and shot just 36.4 percent.

Gilbert, who's shooting 46 percent this season, said he wasn't selfish last season. He maintained he was just doing what it took to help the team win.

"We didn't used to have this post presence and all this talent around here, so I always tried to put things on my shoulders to do what I had to do to help this team win," Gilbert said. "If that meant taking a bad shot, I just tried to do it all."

Now, the Tigers don't need it with all of Snyder's prize recruits making rapid strides. Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant are much improved inside, Rickey Paulding is a versatile sixth man and Stokes feeds them all, handing out seven assists against Jackson State.

Gilbert still throws up the occasional ill-advised shot, but he's a team guy.

"I can pass it to A.J. (Johnson) and he can score," Gilbert said. "With all this talent and guys trusting each other, it's making us look good."

Missouri (6-0) is off to its best start since the 1991-92 team won its first 11 games. Grambling is 1-4 after losing 102-64 at Creighton Thursday night, losing four straight on the road.

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