ST. LOUIS – The arena was nearly full, with everyone seemingly there to see Michael Porter Jr. As it turns out, they saw Mark Fox and Yante Maten live to play yet another day.
Georgia upset Missouri 62-60 in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday, moving the Bulldogs on to face Kentucky in Friday’s quarterfinal. Georgia (18-14) has now won twice here at the SEC Tournament, two-fifths of the way to the five wins it almost certainly needs here to get an improbable NCAA tournament bid.
It happened after a Missouri would-be game-winner from the corner missed. The buzzer sounded, and Georgia players jumped and celebrated, sending home thousands of Missouri fans here for a de facto home game.
One possession earlier, Georgia was clinging to a one-point lead when Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. missed a 3. Georgia freshman Rayshaun Hammonds got the rebound and was fouled with 13 seconds left.
The drama ensued at the other basket. Hammonds’ first free throw bounced in. His second one missed but went long, and Nicolas Claxton grabbed the rebound. He was fouled with 11.3 seconds left. But Claxton missed both free throws. Missouri rebounded and called timeout with 7.1 seconds left.
It was a missed opportunity for Georgia to put it away. But it survived anyway.
Three who mattered
Maten: The SEC Player of the Year continued to be the consistent backbone of the Bulldogs, showing off his all-around game. He had a double-double (21 points and 10 rebounds), hit 3-pointers and demanded the ball in the post down the stretch.
Teshaun Hightower: Georgia’s freshman point guard was a revelation off the bench, scoring 11 points in the first half, including several long 3s.
Porter Jr: The star freshman made his grand entrance less than three minutes into the game, drawing a huge round of applause. But it was his brother Jontay Porter who had the big game, leading Missouri in scoring.
Georgia led by four when Maten had a hook shot roll out and out of bounds with 1:08 left. On the other end Porter Jr. nailed a 3, making it a one-point game and setting up the dramatic final minute.
The importance of Nic: Claxton played nearly 30 minutes off the bench, and was a big lift for the Bulldogs, helping combat Missouri’s length. Claxton’s 6-foot-11 presence helped Georgia contest a number of Missouri shots around the rim.
Foul fest: The officiating crew evidently decided to call it tight, and it worked in Georgia’s favor. Not only did it lead to foul trouble for key Missouri players, the early whistles also helped stifle the Tigers’ momentum in the early minutes.
Short bench again: Fox used an eight-man rotation, which he has done to positive effect several times this year. A ninth player, junior forward E’Torrion Wilridge, briefly played in the final minute of the first half.
Other turning points
After spotting Missouri the first 10 points of the game, Georgia finished the half on a 33-14 run. Missouri at one point went more than eight minutes without scoring, missing 14 shots in a row.
Missouri briefly tied it in the second half, but Georgia answered quickly: Turtle Jackson hit a reverse layup, then Tyree Crump and Claxton hit 3s.
Georgia and Kentucky meet in the second game on Friday, due to start 30 minutes after the completion of the Alabama-Auburn game, which tips off at 1 p.m. ET.