ATHENS, Ga. – Despite trailing by 13 in the second half, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team picked up its most impressive win of the season, topping No. 20 Missouri, 80-70, Tuesday evening before 1,638 fans at Stegeman Coliseum.
Graduate Justin Kier led Georgia (13-8, 6-8 SEC) with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, one of five Bulldogs in double-figures. Sophomore Toumani Camara tallied 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds, with graduate Andrew Garcia pitching in with 13 points. Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler posted 12 points and six assists, while freshman K.D. Johnson scored 10 points and notched four steals. Overall, the Bulldogs shot 49.1 percent from the field, including a 54.2 clip in the second half.
“I think the way we came back and got the momentum, the fact that we did it against such a good team, the fact that some guys were really on the attack, like Justin, K.D., Sahvir, Andrew, those things can only hopefully help us,” said head coach Tom Crean following the game.
Both teams opened the game strong offensively, with Wheeler and Kier powering the Georgia attack in the early going. Kier continued to pick up buckets for the Bulldogs, quickly reaching double-figures in scoring and helping them take a five-point lead by the second media break. Using a 11-0 run, Missouri (13-6, 6-6 SEC) gradually worked its way back into the lead with seven minutes remaining in the half.
The Tigers continued to extend their advantage as the Bulldogs went over five minutes without a field goal, with Horne finally breaking the streak. Each team struggled to score in the closing moments of the first, with the exception of Garcia, who scored six unanswered to put Georgia back in front. The lead was short-lived, however, as a late 3-pointer gave Missouri a 37-33 lead at intermission.
Missouri continued to stretch its lead in the second half, building a 13-point margin in the process by the first media timeout. Georgia attempted to get back into the contest at the foul line, quickly moving into the bonus and narrowing the gap to two on a 3-pointer from sophomore Jaxon Etter. The Bulldogs went on to knot the game at 53 as Johnson picked up a steal and drove for a fast break lay-in.
Georgia eventually regained the lead with consecutive triples from Horne and Kier, capping off a 21-5 comeback sequence. While Missouri was able to again tie the game, Camara helped keep the Bulldogs ahead with a dunk and a crucial three-point play following up on a missed free throw. Holding a narrow lead in the final minutes, Georgia stayed in front for good with timely steals and solid shooting from the charity stripe, sealing a season-defining win in the process.
“We needed to change momentum,” said Crean about the small lineup used during the comeback. “It wasn’t about positions as much then as it was about energy and toughness and movement. Anytime we have Jaxon and K.D. in there, they bring an energy level and a competitiveness level that I think helps the guys. It was a makeshift lineup, not based on who’s guarding who, but who’s going to fight, compete, get on that glass, and in Jaxon’s case, the way he steps up and draws charges. Those are really, really important things.”
Georgia returns to the road this weekend for a matchup against rival Florida (10-6, 6-5) on Saturday, Feb. 20 at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. The meeting with the Gators is set for a 3:30 tip time and will be broadcast on SEC Network.