ATHENS — Georgia men’s basketball will have its season on the line against Missouri in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament at 7 p.m. on Thursday (TV: SEC Network).
“It has a new level of urgency,” Bulldogs All-SEC point guard Sahvir Wheeler said. “You want to keep playing, you don’t want the season to end.
“We’ve put games together where we feel like we can pay within anyone in the country …. our intensity and focus has been magnified 1,000 times coming into this.”
Georgia basketball took another step up in Year Three under Coach Tom Crean, flipping the culture into one with no quit.
The Bulldogs have shown the poise to execute in the clutch, as evidenced by the team’s 4-1 record in games decided by 4 points or less.
Staying close to No. 7 seed Missouri (15-8, 8-8 SEC) will be the game plan for the No. 10-seeded Bulldogs (14-11, 7-11) when the teams tip off at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Missouri is a 6-point favorite, per VegasInsider.com.
— Georgia Basketball (@UGABasketball) March 11, 2021
Georgia beat the then-No. 19-ranked Tigers by an 80-70 count just over three weeks ago in Athens, but there’s a big difference in this Missouri team.
Big, as in 6-foot-10, 260-pound Jeremiah Tilmon big. Missouri’s center did not play the last time the team’s met on account of a death in his family.
Tilmon leads the Tigers in rebounding (7.4 per game) and blocked shots (29), and he’s third on the team in scoring (12.5 points per game).
“He’s as difficult a matchup as there is in the entire league, bar none, because of his size, his mobility, his strength,” Crean said.
“I’m sure as I’m standing here that [Missouri] is going to try and establish him right away in this game with his post presence. We’ve got to be up for that challenge.”
Georgia looked up to the challenge in last year’s tournament in Nashville, playing arguably its best game of the season in eliminating Ole Miss 81-63 in the tourney opener.
Later that night, the NBA announced it was suspending games and the next day the remainder of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament was canceled.
It was the start of a complete standstill in athletics before sports gradually started to run in the summer and into the fall.
There remain limited attendance models, as only 3,400 fans will be allowed in Bridgestone Arena per session at the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The winner of the Georgia-Missouri game on Thursday night would face No. 2 seed Arkansas at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“It’s going to be a new game with them having one of their best players back with Jeremiah Tillman,” Wheeler said. “At the end of the day, it’s win or go home, so they are going to come out hungry.
“It’s gonna be a dogfight, and we want to move on to the next round.”