It wasn’t always pretty for the Missouri Tigers in the second round of the SEC tournament, but as Head Coach Cuonzo Martin said postgame, “We just have to win the game. We are who we are… we just have to find a way to win the game at this point.” And they did just that.
To open the game, both teams got off to a blazingly fast pace, but neither shot the ball well. It was an up and down game that featured quite a few missed layups and shots. At one point, it got so bad that Mizzou went 0-12 and in the same stretch Georgia went 4:30 without scoring a field goal.
However, both teams got it together towards the end of the first half, and Georgia finished strong, going 6-7 from the field. A key steal from Kobe Brown led to an Xavier Pinson 3-pointer at the buzzer that sent the Tigers into the half only down one.
“I thought [Pinson’s 3] definitely gave us a good little burst of momentum,” said Mizzou guard Dru Smith after the game, and when the Tigers came out of the half, it looked like it.
Led by Brown and Smith, the Tigers came out of the half blistering hot. They ended up shooting over 50% as a team after intermission, and Brown and Smith added 12 each.
Midway through the half, the Tigers really took command of the game behind a 14-2 run that stretched over 5 minutes. The run was spearheaded by great defense, which the Tigers played all night, and capitalizing in transition because of it.
As the game wound down, the Tigers hit a major roadblock. In the final 6:24 of the game, they did not have a single field goal, doing all their damage at the free-throw line. As the baskets continued to rattle out for the Tigers, they started to rattle in for the Bulldogs.
With 4 minutes to play, Georgia, led by Sahvir Wheeler’s 14 points and 13 assists, banged out a 9-0 run to cut a once double-digit Missouri lead to just 1 point with less than 2 minutes to play.
“They went to a zone that threw us off for a second. It made us a little stagnant,” said Smith on the Tigers' drought as they closed out the game.
Luckily for Cuonzo Martin, the team’s strong defense and solid free-throw shooting returned, and the Tigers were able to stop the Georgia run and secure the victory 73-70.
Now the Tigers set their sights on Arkansas, a team that is as hot as any across the country. About the upcoming matchup, Cuonzo Martin said, “I’m looking forward to it… as a ballplayer, this is what you play for. This is what you live for.”