By Michael Losch
The shots did not fall for Missouri Tuesday night.
Hoping to rebound after a loss at Alabama, poor shooting spelled disaster for Missouri’s offense at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens.
Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown led the Tigers with 17 points each, but Missouri shot 32 percent from the floor and went 3-18 behind the 3-point line. The Tiger’s 56 points was the lowest output of the season.
“Shots weren’t falling,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “Georgia’s a good defensive team, but I thought we had some really good looks and we just didn’t make shots.”
Little went right for Missouri in the first half.
Georgia made its first four shots from the floor to build an early 9-4 lead. The Tigers responded with a 10-2 run to take the lead back at 14-11, but that was one of the last times Missouri would show any fight for the rest of the game.
If the Tigers weren’t turning the ball over, they were struggling to find the basket. Missouri managed to produce more turnovers than field goals, committing nine turnovers while making seven of 26 shots from the floor.
Struggling offensively, Missouri was only down 25-22 heading into the final minute of the first half. Then the Bulldogs hit a pair of 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater from Nemanja Djurisic to give the Bulldogs a 31-22 halftime lead and kill Missouri’s momentum. Down 11 at halftime, Missouri needed a spark to get back in the game but it never came. No matter what Missouri did, Georgia’s lead was never smaller than six points.
Missouri forward Tony Criswell made a jumper to bring the Tigers within 10 with 10:29 left in the game. Missouri did not score another point for nearly five minutes, when Clarkson hit a free throw at the 5:33 mark. By then, Georgia was leading by 18 and never looked back.
Georgia guard Charles Mann finished with 19 points and forward Marcus Thornton added 15. The Bulldogs (16-11, 10-5) have won six of their last seven games and are currently third in the SEC standings.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said Missouri was a team the Bulldogs were prepared for.
“Missouri has a really good basketball team,” Fox said. “Our team had a great respect for them and we were ready to play. We defended very, very well. I thought offensively we shot the ball pretty well and played a complete game.”
Missouri (19-9, 7-8) had won three straight home games before heading Alabama and comes back to Mizzou Arena empty-handed. Haith is looking for his team to get back to who he says they were.
“We got to get some of our best guys to quit pressing,” Haith said. “Jordan is pressing a little bit, Jabari is pressing a little bit and trying so hard. We just got to relax and play and get back to being who we are.”
Missouri faces Mississippi State on Saturday at Mizzou Arena, still hoping to salvage its season by earning a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers have two games left after Saturday: at home against Texas A&M on March 5 and in Knoxville against Tennessee on March 8. The NCAA tournament selections will be on Sunday, March 16 at 5 p.m. Central time, televised on CBS.