Missouri and Georgia had a COACH FIGHT! pic.twitter.com/EFDGf56Zja
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 7, 2017
Hopefully during the postgame handshakes Coach Fox made sure to thank the Missouri assistant that started all the fracas on the court as Georgia (10-5) and Mizzou (5-9) headed into the locker rooms at halftime. The scuffle fired up a Stegeman crowd that had been lulled to sleep as UGA played an incredibly uninspiring first half. The Dawgs returned to the court reinvigorated following the intermission, and they certainly fed off of the energy coming from a loud and exhuberent Georgia student section.
Georgia, who trailed the Tigers 26-20 at the break, opened up the second half with some full-court pressure and a sense of urgency. The result: UGA turned Mizzou over 5 times in the first 6 minutes, and had a 39-32 lead after Pape Diatta capped off a 19-6 run with a beautiful left-handed reverse layup.
The Dawgs backed out of the press, though, and Georgia’s defense got lackadaisical. The Bulldogs allowed Terrance Phillips, who led all Tiger scorers with 20 points, to bury 3 of his 5 three’s after the break. By the 7:20 mark, Mizzou had taken the lead back from UGA following a free throw by K.J. Walton, making the score 52-51 in favor of the Tigers.
J.J. Frazier, however, took over in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points and snatching a team-high 5 steals. Two of Frazier’s steals came back to back and proved critical down the stretch as he converted one into a layup and another into a mid-range jumper. J.J.’s thievery gave his team a 62-54 advantage with 5:23 left in the game, and following a dagger from beyond the arc by Pape Diatta the Dawgs had a commanding 65-54 lead with just a little over 4 minutes remaining.
As exciting as the second half turned out to be for both the UGA team and its fans, the first half showcased the worst twenty minutes that this team has played all year. Georgia managed just 2 field goals in the game’s first 12 minutes against a Missouri team that entered this game with an RPI of 263 and a loss to Lipscomb under its belt. The Dawgs shot 33% from the floor and just 17% from beyond the arc as they tried to shoot over the top of Missouri’s 2-3 zone defense. Much like South Carolina, Mizzou defenders swarmed around Yante Maten whenever he touched the ball inside. Maten didn’t handle the extra attention well as he committed 4 of his team’s 12 turnovers prior to the intermission (UGA had 20 turnovers on the afternoon). Georgia’s other leading scorer, J.J. Frazier, had just 2 points on 2 field goal attempts as he played as timid of a half offensively as I can remember.
But enough of the negatives. Even though this Tiger team will probably reside in the SEC cellar this year, this was a game that Georgia had to have and they got it. Frazier shot it 50% from the floor, making it just the 5th time this year that he has hit that mark in a game. While he missed both his three-point attempts, J.J. knocked down several mid to long-range jumpers which might help to restore his confidence.
Juwan Parker, who has scored in double-digits in all three of the conference games this year, finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds. More importantly, though, is that the junior seems to have found his shot as he is hitting over 52% from the field in SEC contests.
Pape Diatta provide a huge spark off the bench for Coach Fox, scoring 12 points to go along with 5 boards. I’m not sure what exactly Diatta has to do to steal more of Kenny Paul Geno’s minutes, but hopefully today he made a strong enough case to his coach.
Yante Maten just missed another double-double as he netted 17 points and snagged 9 rebounds, though his turnovers were quite unfortunate.
The future does not look bright for the Dawgs next week as they have a pair of road matchups with Ole Miss and Florida.