COLUMBIA, Missouri (Ticker) -- Ricky Clemons appears to be capable of leading 18th-ranked Missouri.
Clemons had a strong debut with 25 points and Rickey Paulding added 19 as the Tigers held on for a 72-57 victory over American University.
Missouri (1-0) lost its top two scorers as Kareem Rush went to the NBA and Clarence Gilbert graduated. The Tigers also lost their point guard when Wesley Stokes transferred to San Diego State.
Clemons, a junior college star, earned the start in his first game and helped the Tigers seize command early and never trailed. Paulding's 3-pointer opened up a 33-14 lead with just under four minutes left in the first half.
American (0-1) pulled within 63-56 on a jumper by Steven Miles with 91 seconds left. Clemons responded with two foul shots as Missouri made 9-of-10 in the final 88 seconds to seal the win.
The Tigers have won 14 of their last 17 home games.
Paulding scored the game's first six points as Missouri took advantage of some tentative play by American in the opening moments. Paulding, which had 17 points in the first half, hit a jumper and Clemons nailed a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run for a 25-9 lead with 5:42 left before halftime.
Glenn Stokes' 3-pointer capped an 8-0 run by the Eagles that pulled them within 33-22 before Paulding had a basket and Travon Bryant added a free throw for a 14-point halftime cushion.
The Eagles got a jumper from Jernavis Draughn to get within 43-35 and Clemons again answered with a pair of buckets sandwiched around a jumper by Arthur Johnson for another 14-point bulge with 11:47 to go.
Johnson collected 11 points and 10 rebounds and Bryant added 11 and eight for Missouri, which held a 45-34 rebounding edge over the smaller Eagles. Clemons made four 3-pointers.
Miles and Ricardas Patiejunas each scored 12 points for American, which tied Holy Cross for the regular-season title in the Patriot League a season ago. The Eagles clicked at 27 percent (8-of-30) from beyond the arc and had just eight baskets in the first half.