The Missouri Tigers hadn’t lost two games in a row all season before Saturday night, and now they’ve lost three.
In a tale that’s becoming too familiar for the 2021 Mizzou team, a second-half lead slipped away from them in what ended up being a loss to a Georgia team they were favored to beat.
The game started very well for the Tigers. They were playing stout defense most of the first half, they were taking care of the ball better than they had all season, and Kobe Brown was having a career night with 13 first-half points.
“I thought he (Kobe) was aggressive, I thought he was in attack mode… we felt like we had an advantage with him. The key with him is being aggressive mentally… and I thought he got off to a great start,” Cuonzo Martin said about Brown’s success.
Brown finished with a career-high 21 points, but unfortunately for Cuonzo Martin’s men, they were unable to keep capitalizing on their first half success. Much like their performance against Mississippi State, the Tigers were bull rushed in the second half and they couldn't answer.
After taking a 5-point lead into halftime, the Tigers came out of half strong on a 9-1 run, but the momentum shifted to the Bulldogs in the final 15 minutes of the game. With the Tigers leading 48-35, their lead began to evaporate. They turned it over 11 times in the second half, after turning it over just twice in the first, and they shot 9-25 (excluding the final minute of the half) while also committing 17 fouls. It was possibly the worst half of basketball they had played all season.
When it was all said and done, the Tigers were outscored 45-22 in the final 14:22 by Georgia and the 80-70 final score didn’t indicate just how dominant the Bulldogs really were. “In the second half, we got sloppy, had a lot more turnovers, and played bad transition defense. It just got away from us,” Parker Braun said following the loss.
This was the second game in which Mizzou was without their star center Jeremiah Tilmon, but in his absence, one of the lone bright spots on the night appeared.
With Mitch Smith forced into Tilmon’s starting role, the aforementioned Braun was now responsible for filling in off the bench the last two games, and he has performed admirably. After scoring 6 points against Arkansas over the weekend, the former walk-on finished with 7 points, 3 assists, and even added 3 blocks tonight, making a case for a larger role in the rotation even when Tilmon returns to the lineup. “He’s been locked in in practice. His number was called and he’s been ready for it,” said Kobe Brown about his teammate after the game.
Despite Braun’s stellar performance, Xavier Pinson and Dru Smith added just 11 points each, and no other Tigers scored in double figures aside from Brown.
With the Tigers clearly in desperate need of reliable scoring, Jeremiah Tilmon’s return is still a question mark. “We expect him back soon,” Coach Cuonzo Martin said after the game, but he did not give an exact timeline as the Tigers might be forced to try and right the ship without their best player.