Missouri rallied from down 17 in the first half to claim a second half lead over Georgia, but the Tigers did not have enough left in the tank to complete a comeback, falling 75-68 at Mizzou Arena on Saturday.
In the end, while Mizzou had moments of brilliance in this game, Georgia was far more consistent throughout the 40 minutes of play, a trend that has plagued the Tigers throughout this 2023-24 campaign.
“We only led for three minutes and 50 seconds of that games,” Dennis Gates said. “We weren’t able to put them in distress and they played with the lead for the majority of the game.”
Sean East II, Noah Carter, Aidan Shaw and Tamar Bates combined for 60 of the team’s 68 points in this one. Carter appeared to find his stroke from behind the arc (3-for-4) after struggling in recent outings, and Bates and East were their usual playmaking selves. But, Shaw stole the show by pouring in a career-high 14 points and tying for the team-high with six rebounds in what was likely his best performance as a Tiger.
“I was really just doing what I do best, cutting the 45 from the corner, watching my point guards drive baseline and diving in,” Shaw said.
But, outside of that core four, Gates did not receive the usual contribution from his bench. Only one player that did not start played more than 10 minutes (Jesus Carralero Martin), and it led to UGA claiming a 23-3 edge in bench points.
The tale of Mizzou’s 2023-24 season thus far can be summed up best by the phrase “hot and cold.” The first half of this game followed that trend to a T.
The Tigers began this game by shooting 3-for-3 from the floor, and Carter poured in eight points during the first five minutes of the game. Given his recent struggles (2-for-25 from behind the arc and averaging 6.8 PPG in his last five outings), the early shooting success was a promising sign for this Missouri team.
But, the Bulldogs countered with a hot start of their own, as UGA found plenty of open looks in the opening half, specifically from behind the arc. Georgia also hit its first three shots of the game and finished the half shooting above 60% both from the floor and 3-point land.
With both teams competing at a breakneck pace early on, the score remained within a five-point margin. The first side to cool off would almost certainly find itself trailing by a considerable margin.
That side ended up being the Tigers. They went on a scoreless drought for just over seven minutes in the middle of the half, and it allowed the visitors to claim a 35-18 lead at the 5:50 mark.
A Bates 3-pointer stopped the bleeding, and from there the Missouri offense regained a rhythm. Carter, Bates, East II, Shaw and even Nick Honor chipped in during a 20-5 run to close the opening half, cutting UGA’s lead to just 40-38 at the break.
Russel Tchewa showed signs of being a problem for Missouri in the first half, and he built off of that with a 12-point second half performance. The bruising 7-footer was able to consistently move Carter or whoever else was guarding him in the paint, and it led to him either getting easy looks at the rim or ending up at the charity stripe.
But, even with Tchewa beginning to take over in the second half, the Mizzou offense was able to keep pace thanks to efforts from the same core of Carter, Bates, Shaw and East II that carried them for much of the first half. After remaining in striking distance, the Tigers claimed their first lead since the 18:07 mark of the first half with 11:23 remaining in the game at 57-56.
The teams traded runs from there, with UGA reclaiming the lead on the backs of a quick 7-0 burst before Mizzou fired back with a 6-0 run of its own to make it 65-63 in favor of the home team with 4:45 remaining in the game.
That would be the last sign of life from the Tigers. Mizzou failed to score again until the 54 second mark, and Georgia was able to close this game out from the free throw line.
The Tigers will next pay a visit to Rupp Arena for their lone meeting with Kentucky. The Wildcats will surely have revenge on their minds after Mizzou won 89-75 in last year’s matchup.