Missouri men’s basketball graduate guard D’Moi Hodge looked automatic from 3-point range Saturday in Athens, displaying his ability to shoot lights out and alter the trajectory of the game.
Hodge drilled six-of-11 3-pointers en route to an 18-point display to lead the Tigers past a motivated Georgia program looking to snap a two-game losing streak to Southeastern Conference opponents.
“Hodge was able to get out to a great start,” Mizzou men’s basketball head coach Dennis Gates said in the postgame.
Mizzou (21-8, 9-7 SEC) pulled away from the Bulldogs with a 21-3 run between the first and second halves, in which the Tigers shot 70% from the field with five 3-pointers. Hodge drilled a trio of these 3-pointers, finding success wherever he looked.
The stretch encapsulated an efficient day for the Mizzou offense, who shot 57.9% from the field, including a 50% tally from 3-point range. The Tigers featured a balanced scoring effort, with seven different players notching at least seven points.
Fellow graduate guard Nick Honor led the secondary wave, nearly matching Hodge’s numbers. Honor scored 17 points, knocking down five 3-pointers and adding four assists.
“(Honor) needs to be more selfish,” Gates said. “Sometimes the word selfish (has) a negative connotation, but in our program, if you’re too unselfish, that turns the word into selfish. Nick Honor needs to be able to play off the dribble how he has.”
Mizzou’s SEC Player of the Year candidate, senior forward Kobe Brown, had a relatively quiet outing with only eight points, but he added nine rebounds. Senior forward Noah Carter and graduate guard DeAndre Gholston were the only other Tigers to score in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Junior guard Kario Oquendo led the hosts with 14 points, adding onto the 12-point performances from fifth-year guard Mardrez McBridge and fifth-year center Braelen Bridges. Junior guard Justin Hill also scored nine points.
The Bulldogs fell off after an efficient first half, finishing with a 41.3% mark from the field and a 10-of-29 showing from 3-point range.
“Percentages, they level out at some point,” Gates said. “I thought they had the same looks; they just didn’t make them and we played our defensive rotations the normal ways.”
Georgia, which entered Saturday’s contest with a 13-2 record at Stegeman Coliseum, showcased their home court advantage once again in a first half that looked the part of a 3-point contest.
The Bulldogs drilled eight 3-pointers in the opening period, knocking them down at a 47.1% mark. They entered the game shooting 32.4% from behind the arc, good for eighth in the SEC.
Mizzou, after missing its first six 3-point shots, finished the first half with seven 3-pointers. The Tigers drilled seven of their last 10 shots from beyond the arc in the opening half, capped by a Noah Carter step-back triple before the horn sounded.
“(Carter’s shot) gave us a lot more confidence,” Honor said. “We just felt that if we stay strong and stay together, then things will figure themselves out in the second half.”
Hodge led the charge offensively for the Tigers in the first half, scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers. The graduate guard may play the most vital role on Mizzou’s reformed offense, as the Tigers improved to 16-2 when he makes three triples, a mark Hodge hit with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
Oquendo, who scored a team-high 13 first-half points, lit the torch for Georgia offensively. A usual starter who came off the bench due to senior day, Oquendo drained his first three 3-point shots after entering the day shooting 27.9% on triples.
The Bulldogs, who built leads of six and eight points at different times throughout the first half, looked prime to pull off a late season upset on senior night in front of a packed crowd.
“It was an emotional game, simply because it was senior day for the Georgia Bulldogs,” Gates said. “I knew (Georgia head coach) Mike White would have his team prepared to play and they came out blazing.”
However, that trajectory shifted toward the end of the first half with 3-pointers from Hodge and Carter that cut the halftime deficit to one-point at 41-40, Georgia.
Mizzou pieced together a 35-8 run to flip a seven-point deficit into a commanding 20-point lead. The stretch showcased an even more efficient half for the Tigers, as they shot 63% in the closing frame, including a 7-of-12 mark on triples.
Defensively, Mizzou forced 19 Georgia turnovers, turning those into 32 points. Gates spoke on the importance of capitalizing on those miscues one week ago in the Tigers’ loss to Texas A&M, and the team responded in an emphatic way.
“Mike White does a good job, and there are certain things that head coaches can’t control and that’s sometimes the decision making or even the turnovers,” Gates said. “We knew that if we stayed solid, the ball was going to come back to us.”
The Tigers found their second-half success from names other than Brown, who did not attempt a shot in the entire period. He was able to rest on the bench, while Mizzou penetrated the paint and capitalized on opportunities in the paint.
Led by Carter, Gholston and graduate guard Tre Gomillion, who added eight points, the Tigers out-scored Georgia 32-18 in the paint, an impressive mark considering the limited time from Brown. The senior urged Gates to limit his minutes in the second half in order to play other guys than himself.
“How unselfish is that?,” Gates said. “Our environment is one that’s conductive and allows communication back-and-forth.”
Mizzou will continue its last road trip of the season with a visit to LSU, taking on the Tigers at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Baton Rouge. In their last meeting, Missouri defeated LSU 87-77 in Columbia.