Missouri and Georgia have been on a collision course all season long. As two of the bottom teams in the SEC (Mizzou has the head-to-head over Ole Miss, the only team between them), these two have circled this matchup as the most likely win on the schedule.
Georgia has had a nightmarish season. Their lone win in conference play came over Alabama in January, and they are currently in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. They have allowed 78 points per game and are poised for some personnel changes this offseason with the struggles they have had.
Case in point: Playing UGA at home is the easiest win you can pick up in the 2021-22 SEC conference. Missouri had all the means to end their 6-game losing streak and send Javon Pickett out with a win on senior day.
“A little bit before the game I was a little nervous, had some jitters,” Pickett said. “Just wanted to get a win for the last time on this court.” It should be noted, Pickett is undecided on whether he will take a Covid year.
It looked like the team as a whole was nervous to start. The Tigers turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes, two of which were easy steals and run-outs for the Bulldogs. Therefore, it made sense that UGA began a scorching 7/7 from the field and held a double digit lead early on.
“It was a slow start to say the least, but we settled in,” Cuonzo Martin said. “My college coach taught me to play for the team and to commit to your teammates.”
Missouri kept pace thanks to their efforts on the glass, but between Georgia’s hot shooting, Kobe Brown picking up 3 first-half fouls and the turnovers, the Tigers were lucky to be down just 9 at the half.
The sloppiness in the half-court from Missouri was what had given Georgia the advantage. Eight turnovers in a half is poor, but the easy looks it led to for Georgia was the killer. On top of that, the defense gave the Bulldogs too many clean looks at the rim and from three-point land.
The first order of business was to stop Braelen Bridges, who was getting anywhere he wanted to in the paint and making Mizzou pay for it. He had a game-leading 14 points at the break.
“We didn’t play physical at all in that first half,” Pickett said. “They were getting whatever shots they wanted, especially in the paint.”
Kobe Brown had a quick seven points coming out of the half to cut the Georgia lead all the way down to three, and it inspired the crowd to get back into the game. The lead got down to one, but Brown picked up his fourth foul of the game with just over 12 minutes left and was sidelined until the 5-minute mark.
“Being in foul trouble is tough; I can’t keep doing that,” Kobe Brown said. “I just had to stay engaged and do what I could from the bench.”
The loss of Brown did not bother Mizzou all that much. The game was knotted at 51 entering the under-12 timeout, and Mizzou Arena was fully invested at that point. The noise level rivaled that of the Auburn game despite a smaller crowd, and the players fed off the energy.
The atmosphere led to the Tigers taking a 6-point lead into the under-8 timeout. The team as a whole played with more energy and looked crisper on offense, in large part thanks to Kobe Brown and Boogie Coleman (3/6 from 3-point land) getting hot in the second half.
The lead continued to expand as time wore on, with the Tigers making highlight-reel plays all over the floor. The fancy passing and dunks had the crowd on its feet for the final five minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs made a late push, but they could not get the lead below four, and Mizzou salted the game away from the free throw line.
The second half was the absolute opposite of the first. The Tigers got major contributions from Boogie Coleman and Kobe Brown, who combined for 33 on the day. The offense as a whole ran smoother, as they committed half as many turnovers and raised their field goal percentage to a solid 49.2%.
Another major difference was the defensive presence. Bridges only had five points in the second half, and the Bulldogs cooled off remarkably as a team. The rebounding was there the whole game, ending with a whopping 40-22 advantage, and once the rest caught up the Tigers controlled this one.
“We’ve seen growth,” Martin said regarding how this team has changed from start to finish. “I mean, look at Trevon Brazile and where he’s come from when he got here to now. Javon was never a scorer and he now is top 15 in the SEC in scoring.”
Javon Pickett ended his career at Mizzou Arena with a win, and rightfully so. He had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in his final game in Columbia.
“He represents this university at a high level; our alumni should be fighting to get him to work for their companies when he’s done,” Martin said. “He’s one I don’t have to worry about.”
Missouri will now take part in the SEC Tournament in Tampa, starting on Wednesday, March 9th. The 12th seeded Tigers will play in game one against Ole Miss at 5:00pm CST on the SEC Network. The Tigers will have to win four games in as many days to make the NCAA Tournament.