The final stretch of this game lasted a lifetime. After building up a 55-46 lead with 8:24 left, Georgia (18-14) scored only 3 more field goals the rest of the contest as Missouri’s defense put the clamps on the Dawgs. It felt like things were slipping away. Mizzou couldn’t finish a layup to take the lead with Georgia up 61-60. Rayshaun Hammonds snagged the Tiger miss and was immediately fouled, but the freshman only hit 1 of 2 from the line. Then, Claxton seemingly saved UGA’s season with an offensive board off the Hammonds miss, but unfortunately he couldn’t convert either of his free throws.
I’d seen this movie before. I knew this wouldn’t end well for Georgia. With 7 seconds left, Mizzou in-bounded the ball and got it exactly where they wanted it – in the hands of a wide-open Kassius Robertson, who’s made over 43% of his three-point shots this year. This was the moment where Georgia was supposed to lose.
Instead, Robertson’s shot went long and the ball was batted around a few times before time expired. Dawgs win.
Georgia advances in a game that not many people had them pegged winning. For starters, it was basically a home game for the Tigers. Also, in case you’ve been living in a cave the past 48 hours, freshman phenom Michael Porter, Jr. returned to take on Georgia this afternoon. He scored 12 points, but it came at the expense of a 5 for 17 shooting performance from the floor. After not playing a minute since the first game of the year, Porter entered today’s game and took more shots than any other Tiger player. His presence obviously altered the chemistry of Coach Martin’s team. Mizzou guards Robertson and Jordan Barnett, who combined for 30 points a night this season, scored a total of 10 points between them this afternoon.
The Porter brother that proved to be the biggest thorn in Georgia’s side was Jontay, who scored 20 points (12 of which came from beyond the arc). I shudder to think how badly their high school team must have throttled the competition in Columbia the past few years.
Just an all around gutty effort by the Bulldogs. Mizzou jumped on Georgia early as they built a 10-0 lead in a little over 5 minutes of game time. UGA failed to wither, though. Rather, the Dawgs responded with a 19-2 run of their own and found themselves leading 19-12 with under 7 minutes left in the half following a jumper by Teshaun Hightower. Georgia would hold Mizzou to just 24% from the floor prior to the break, and the Dawgs headed to the locker room with a 33-24 lead.
Hightower once again provided the Dawgs with a big spark off the bench. The freshman scored 11 of his 13 points before the intermission; he also hauled in 7 rebounds. Hightower is unafraid to take the ball to the basket, and it’s been a refreshing sight to see him scoring around the rim as UGA hasn’t gotten much of that kind of production from its backcourt this season.
Despite being hounded with double-teams all game, Yante Maten still logged a double-double as he scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Maten’s ability to draw contact on the inside was a big factor in both of Mizzou’s starting bigs – Kevin Puryear and Jeremiah Tillmon – fouling out. Yante did struggle offensively over the final 2 minutes as he missed all 3 of his field goal attempts, but the Georgia big man did knock down a huge jumper from the wing on an in-bounds play that gave UGA a 61-57 advantage with 3:29 left.
Up next for Georgia is Kentucky, a team that Mark Fox has never beaten outside of Athens. Should UGA manage another upset on Friday, they will certainly take a big step closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble.