Georgia basketball Coach Tom Crean plans physical showing at Missouri

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Tony Walsh / UGA Sports

ATHENS — The Georgia basketball team arrived in the “Show Me State” on Monday night intent on being prepared to show Missouri a new brand of physicality.

Bulldogs’ coach Tom Crean said playing that style of basketball, with toughness, will be needed against Coach Cuonzo Martin’s Tigers at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Columbia (TV: SEC Network).

“We’ve got to deal with [Missouri’s] physicality, because they’re a very physical, aggressive basketball team,” Crean said on Monday before the team practiced and flew to Missouri.

“We’ve got to defend their guards and definitely have to be able to continue to run our offense, because of that physicality and the way they help and recover.”

Georgia (11-8, 1-5 SEC) will be looking to snap its season-long three-game losing streak against Missouri (9-10, 1-5).

The Tigers rank 33rd in the nation and second in the SEC in scoring defense, opponents averaging just 62.3 points per game against them.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are fourth in the SEC in scoring with 76.7 points per game.

The improved health of freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler figures to be key, as he has been battling back from an ankle injury suffered in the 80-63 win over Tennessee on Jan. 15.

“He’s got to push the ball better, (and) we have to get out and go,” Crean said. “We have to get him flying up the court and doing a better job with that. There’s no doubt about that and when he does, he’s really good. That’s what we have to have.

“Push it, throw it ahead, get it back, attack, get his confidence back making layups. Continue if it’s not there keeping the ball alive, don’t try to force a shot, keep it alive, keep it moving. Hopefully his confidence will come back to him.”

Tempo, spacing and ball movement are all near the top of the priority list for the Bulldogs.

But on Tuesday night, it starts with toughness.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to get some loose balls, we’ve got to get some guys that will put their body on the ground, be quick, react quicker, and that’s part of it,” Crean said.

“You want to make this your career and it doesn’t stay your career very long if you’re not aggressive if you’re not tough, you’re not physical, if you don’t have a mindset for winning. That’s what it is.”

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