Bulldogs fall to Missouri, 73-70, in SEC Tournament
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Despite a valiant comeback effort, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team fell, 73-70, to Missouri Thursday evening in the second round of the 2021 Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.
Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler led Georgia (14-12, 7-11 SEC) with his eighth double-double of the season, tallying 14 points and 13 assists. Wheeler’s 13 assists set a new SEC Tournament single-game record, breaking the previous top mark of 12 held by three players.
Fellow sophomore Toumani Camara also earned his eighth double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while freshman K.D. Johnson pitched in with 12 points. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 43.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I’m proud of their effort,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game. “Our guys battled extremely hard. They never flinched when we got down. It was a highly contested game. The lane was hard to come by. It was hard to get things in that lane, but our guys kept working to figure it out. We had an opportunity at the end to tie it, but we just didn’t get it.”
After Missouri (16-8, 8-8 SEC) quickly ran out to a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes, Georgia used its inside game to close the gap, notching six unanswered points to tie it up at 12 by the second media break. Both teams struggled offensively following the timeout, with a P.J. Horne 3-pointer providing the only Bulldog points in a six-minute span.
Following the drought, graduate Justin Kier and sophomore Christian Brown put Georgia in front with back-to-back triples, eventually building a six-point advantage near intermission. Missouri then posted a short run in the final half-minute, hitting a buzzer-beater in transition to make the score 33-32 Georgia at halftime.
The opening moments of the second half became a 3-point showcase, with the two teams combining for four-consecutive makes. Powered by the strong shooting, the margin remained tight, with neither team leading by more than three during the first eight minutes of the half. However, senior guard Dru Smith subsequently led the Tigers on a 14-2 run, seemingly taking control of the game in the process.
Coming out of the under-8 timeout, Johnson and Wheeler put the Bulldogs on their backs, scoring 13 straight points, primarily in the fast break. The Georgia run was capped off by a layup from Camara at the 3:09 mark, bringing the Bulldogs to within one. After the Tigers moved back ahead on a fouled 3-point attempt, Wheeler came right back, splitting through the defense for a clutch basket.
Two possessions later, Camara went to the foul line with a chance to tie but Kier was called for a lane violation. Despite the call, Kier rebounded to hit a critical 3-pointer, returning the Georgia deficit to one with just eight seconds remaining. Following two Tiger free throw makes, Horne threw up one final attempt from the top of the key, but the shot came up short.