Georgia upsets Missouri, 70-64
Originally published January 8, 2014 at 11:23 p.m., updated January 8, 2014 at 11:35 p.m.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri Tigers got in the habit of letting teams hang around during non-conference play. Especially teams that had no business being in a close game against a ranked team.
It happened against Southern Illinois, Gardner-Webb, Western Michigan and Long Beach State before Missouri pulled away late.
A similar scenario presented itself against a .500 team in the Southeastern Conference on Wednesday night. Only this time, it came back to bite the Tigers.
Georgia, last in the SEC with an RPI of 242, ended 21st-ranked Missouri’s nation-best 26-game homecourt winning streak with a 70-64 upset victory in overtime at Mizzou Arena in the SEC opener for both teams.
“Maybe we got bit by that because we’ve answered the bell,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said, alluding to the fact his team has pulled out more than a few close games this season. “You have a little assumption about yourself. I think that’s what got us tonight. … I’ve said that the thing that concerns me the most about this team is we’ve answered the bell, but we’ve also been one that takes plays off. That caught us tonight.”
After Missouri went up 63-58 on an old-fashioned three-point play from Earnest Ross with 2:51 left in overtime, the Tigers were held without a field goal the rest of the way, as Georgia stole a victory with a game-ending 12-1 run.
“I grew up in the state of Kansas. As a child it was all about Big Eight basketball. … To win at an old Big Eight school the (week) after my father passed is really special for me,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “I was really proud of my team. We beat a very good team and it’s a terrific win for us to start SEC play.”
Jabari Brown paced the Tigers with 19 points, Ross added 15 and Jordan Clarkson had 12.
Charles Mann led Georgia with 18 points, Nemanja Djurisic added 16, Kenny Gaines contributed 11 and Brandon Morris had 10.
Missouri took Georgia lightly from the beginning.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-0 lead, prompting Haith to call a timeout a little more than two minutes into the game.
“I go into every game wanting to understand how hard it is to win,” Haith said. “That’s something we try to convey to our players. As a coach I sensed we didn’t have the right, we didn’t feel right.
“There was a casualty about ourselves in the locker room prior to the game. The word I hate, I hate ‘cool.’ We were really too cool. I don’t like cool, cool will get you beat. And cool got us beat tonight.”
Another Georgia surge — 11 straight points this time — gave the Bulldogs a 30-20 edge late in the opening half.
Things got a little testy in the final minute of the half, as Clarkson narrowly avoided an elbow from Mann after the Bulldog guard called a timeout on the Missouri half of the court. That brought about an animated reaction from Haith, but the situation didn’t escalate any further.
Georgia took a 30-25 advantage into intermission, a season-low halftime output for Missouri.
After Mann’s drive gave the Bulldogs a 32-25 lead on the first possession of the second half, Missouri finally woke up. The Tigers went on a 14-2 run to take a 39-34 lead. During that stretch that saw Missouri go ahead, the Tigers held the Bullogs scoreless for 7:09 of game time.
Georgia didn’t fade, fighting back to take a 45-43 lead on a drive from Gaines with 6:12 left. Brown hit four straight free throws to give Missouri the lead before Georgia got buckets from Mann and Gaines to go up 56-53 with 1:27 left.
Mann had a chance to extend the lead with just more than a minute left but missed a pair of free throws. Clarkson nailed a deep 3 from the top of the key to knot the score with 53.7 seconds left.
After a defensive stop, Clarkson missed a step-back jumper just before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime tied at 56.
“Jordan has to pass the ball a little bit,” Haith said. “He has to get that ball in and out of his hands. … That ball stuck way too much tonight for him.”
Missouri raced out to that 63-58 advantage, but Georgia kept fighting back.
“That’s a time when a team’s will can break, and we just didn’t let it happen,” Fox said. “I was very proud of our resiliency there.”
A layup and a 3-pointer from Djurisic tied the game before a runner from Mann gave Georgia a 65-63 lead with 35 seconds to go. The Bulldogs — after hitting just 8-of-20 free throws in regulation — hit 5-of-6 fouls shots in the extra session to ice the win.
Georgia, which held a 43-34 advantage on the glass, improves to 7-6 and 1-0 in SEC play.
“It’s toughness. You have to be tougher,” Haith said. “That’s what Georgia exuded here today. They came in and played with a great mindset and tremendous toughness.”
Missouri (12-2, 0-1 SEC) hits the road Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest at Auburn.
“It’s definitely going to sting, especially losing at home, but we have to have a short memory,” Brown said. “We have to bounce back, we can’t let one loss turn into two. We have to go get a road win, and I think we’re prepared to do that.”
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