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No. 20 Tigers start slowly, win opener against American
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- It wasn't the blowout Missouri was hoping for in its season opener. Then again, at least the Tigers know where they need to improve.
Ricky Clemons scored 25 points and Rickey Paulding added 19 as No. 20 Missouri defeated American 72-57 Friday night in the opener for both teams.
Steven Miles scored with 1:30 left to pull American to 63-56, but Clemons made two free throws to boost the lead back to nine. American failed to score, and Paulding made two more free throws to seal it.
"I was disappointed with our urgency at giving points, sloppy exchanges, things like that," Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. "We're not as connected as a group as we need to be. When we get more connected, we'll see the ball go into the post with more efficiency, we'll see guys penetrate and hit each other. It just takes some work."
Clemons, a transfer from the College of Southern Idaho, also had four assists and five rebounds in his debut as Missouri's point guard. Paulding, a junior, made eight of 16 shots but didn't score in the second half until 1:09 remained. After scoring 17 points in the first half, Paulding took just three shots in the second.
"Part of it is Rickey growing as a player," Snyder said. "I think it says a lot about his character that he isn't going to press."
Instead, Snyder wanted to get the ball to his post players, Arthur Johnson and Travon Bryant. Johnson had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Bryant added 11 points.
"I don't think it was really conscious on my part, but I think me being the leader of the team I had to be conscious of getting the ball to those guys," Paulding said. "I think, in turn, guys got a little less aggressive, and that resulted in us taking poor shots."
Missouri made 12 of 26 shots in the second half, but American kept pace by shooting 41 percent after an 8-of-29 showing in the first half.
Miles led American with 12 points and Jernavis Draughn added 10.
"Teams have a tendency, if you hang around, to get tight," American coach Jeff Jones said. "We couldn't quite finish that."
American also cut Missouri's lead to 43-35 early in the second half with a 9-0 run that included six points from Draughn. Missouri responded with a 6-0 run of its own sparked by two Clemons drives.
Missouri (1-0) overcame its poor shooting start to take a 36-22 halftime lead. Paulding scored Missouri's first six points, and the Tigers shot 16 of 36 after a 3-of-10 start.
American (0-1) made just 28 percent of its shots in the first half and didn't score for the first 4:40 of the game.