Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri men’s basketball team got away with two scoring droughts of four or more minutes Wednesday against Georgia.
The Bulldogs made them pay for the third.
Georgia scored 17 straight second-half points to erase all memory of a 1-point Missouri lead and hand the Tigers a 60-57 defeat at Mizzou Arena.
“Obviously, you can’t go six minutes without scoring and expect to win,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said.
Missouri’s 5:50 stretch without a point allowed Georgia to build a 16-point lead, which the Tigers lowered to three before running out of time. But Anderson felt it was the first two lapses — lasting 4:02 and 4:24, respectively — that cost his team the most.
“I think the game was lost in the first half, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think that’s the time we had an opportunity maybe to get a lead and make them play from behind and we didn’t do that. When it gets down to when you need a bucket, you’ve got to be able to execute, and we couldn’t do that for a long time.”
The teams entered halftime tied at 22, but the opening 20 minutes were far from aesthetically pleasing. The Tigers made just a third of their shots, and that was two percentage points better than Georgia’s 10-of-32 mark.
Missouri’s first four-minute scoring drought began after Kevin Puryear’s layup at 12:41. The second came just two Missouri field goals later, after a Cullen VanLeer 3 at 5:42. The Bulldogs scored just six points in each of those stretches, taking the lead but only by one during each Missouri drought. Those were the only leads held by Georgia in the first half.
“I think defensively in the first half we did a really good job containing them,” Puryear said. “We recognized personnel really well, and played to our strengths and knew who the shooters were.”
Tramaine Isabell rattled off four straight points to end the latter drought, but an and-1 layup by Georgia’s Yante Maten evened the score before halftime. Isabell was the only Missouri player to shoot a first-half free throw, making 3-of-6. Maten led all scorers in the first half with nine points.
Missouri’s 22 first-half points were its fewest in a half since its 66-42 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 23, when the Tigers scored just 14 before halftime.
Maten burst out of the half, scoring the Bulldogs’ first six points. The team’s leading scorer, Maten finished with game highs in points (21), rebounds (12) and blocks (six).
The lead changed seven times before the first media timeout of the second half. Then things got ugly. A Wes Clark 3 had given Missouri a 34-33 lead. Nearly six minutes later, the Tigers trailed 50-34. Anderson called two timeouts within a span of fewer than two minutes during the skid, and the Tigers turned the ball over three times.
A Namon Wright 3-point play ended a string of seven missed shots for the Tigers and marked the beginning of a gradual 19-6 run to cut the lead to three.
Terrence Phillips capped that run with a steal and two free throws to get within one possession for the first time since 35-34. J.J. Frazier hit two free throws after a costly D’Angelo Allen foul, but Wright was fouled shooting a 3 on the next possession to give Missouri a chance to cut the lead to two. Instead, he missed the first and third shots and the Tigers were still two possessions away.
“I thought I was going to knock all three of them down and do something heroic and we’ll win the game,” Wright said. “But that’s not how it went.”
Wright finished with 12 points, tied with Phillips for most on the team. Puryear added 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
Clark, the team’s second-leading scorer, spent most of the first half on the bench after picking up two fouls in the game’s first three minutes.
“I’m sure they were fouls, but they weren’t very good fouls,” Anderson said. “He’s our most experienced ball-handler, so we need him in the game.”
The comeback attempt was reminiscent of Missouri’s losses to Northwestern and Illinois, in which the Tigers fell behind a sizable amount before leading a commendable comeback that fell just short.
“It’s looking like the same song, but we’re not purposely doing it,” Puryear said. “We’re just falling behind and having mental lapses and we can’t do that.”
Missouri (8-10, 1-4 SEC) plays Saturday at No. 10 Texas A&M (16-2, 6-0).
Notes: The game’s attendance was 5,453. It was the first-ever SEC game at Mizzou Arena attended by fewer than 6,000. … Georgia’s seven blocks against Missouri tied for the most by a Missouri opponent this season. Five of Maten’s six blocks came in the second half. … The game was Missouri’s fifth straight loss to Georgia. Georgia beat Missouri 77-59 on Jan. 6 in Athens, Ga. The Tigers haven’t beaten Georgia since Jan. 16, 2013. … Georgia entered the game 0-3 on the road. The Bulldogs avoided losing their first pair of consecutive games this season.