Quick reaction: UGA’s 2nd half defense prevails

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Just days after giving up 115 points to Alabama, Georgia’s (13-8, 6-8) defense carried it in a 80-70 win over #20 Mizzou. Toumani Camara, who’s made under 30% of his three-point attempts this season, buried a pair of triples in the first half to start this game. Justin Kier, who’d missed his previous 8 three-point attempts leading up to this contest, hit both his attempts from that spot tonight en route to a team high 16 points. Bizzaro world? Nope. Just Georgia basketball.

After an evenly played first half that saw Mizzou head into the locker room with a 37-33 advantage, Georgia had a brutal start coming out of the intermission. The Dawgs opened up the second half with 3 turnovers and a miss, and before 3 minutes had transpired the Tigers lead had ballooned to 46-33. Tom Crean put in Jaxon Etter and Andrew Garcia with the hopes that they could provide a spark off the bench, and those two did just that as they combined for 11 points over the next 6 minutes which brought Georgia to within a bucket.

Georgia’s defensive intensity when Etter, Garcia and K.D. Johnson are on the floor is infectious, and ultimately it helps to facilitate offense for the Dawgs. After committing just 2 turnovers prior to the break, Mizzou coughed the ball up 11 times in the final 20 minutes and those errors led to 9 Georgia points. The Dawgs held the Tigers without a field goal for over 4 minutes down the final stretch of this contest, which allowed Georgia to turn a 66-64 lead into a 78-64 edge; Tom Crean’s team essentially closed out the game with its defense. Let that sink in for a moment.

In all fairness to Mizzou, they were playing without big man Jeremiah Tillman, who is unfortunately dealing with a death in the family. Tillman is a huge part of Coach Martin’s gameplan as he is netting over 13 points and grabbing more than 7 boards in SEC play.

Still, Georgia’s perimeter defenders did a superb job of keeping Martin’s backcourt stars in check. Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith entered this game averaging nearly 29 points combined a night; yet against Georgia, these two mustered just 20 points between them on an unforgettable 8 of 23 performance from the floor.

If you are trying to figure out this UGA team, best of luck. Despite losing leading scorers Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds from last year’s squad, the Dawgs have now won more SEC games (6) than last season. At the risk of becoming repetitive, UGA’s defense, which is the worst scoring defense in the conference, took over the second half against Mizzou and won this game.