Five observations as Georgia won at Missouri, 60-57, on Wednesday night.
1. GETTING OFF THE MAT
Considering everything, Georgia almost certainly will not be too mad about having to eke out a three-point win against perhaps the worst team in the SEC.
Georgia (now 10-6 overall, 3-3 in the SEC) was coming off a 34-point home loss to Texas A&M, the worst margin of defeat in head coach Mark Fox’s seven years as head coach. So the Bulldogs at least got a win back on their ledger as they head into a very tough part of their schedule, which will determine if they have any chance at making an NCAA tournament run.
Beating Missouri (now 8-10, 1-4) won’t do much for Georgia’s resume’, but the Bulldogs at least avoided a bad loss, and hope they figured some things out for the tough road ahead.
2. FINALLY, A ROAD WIN
Georgia’s first road victory of the season took until well into January. Last season Georgia got its first road win on Dec. 2, and won a total of nine times away from home. In fact its strength away from home, including wins at Ole Miss and Texas A&M, was a big reason it got an NCAA tournament bid.
This season the Bulldogs have losses at Seton Hall, Florida and Ole Miss. After returning home this Saturday against Arkansas, four out of their next six games are on the road, including trips to LSU, Baylor and Kentucky.
The Bulldogs will need to steal a few of those to have a shot at the NCAAs, and to do that they’ll have to play much better than they have lately. That would mean the way they played in the second half on Wednesday.
3. FROM ABYSMAL TO NEAR-PERFECT
Georgia was a different team when the second half began, which it badly needed to be.
After a first half that was just awful offensively – for both teams – the Bulldogs came out firing after the break, making 10 of their first 13 shots from the field. They went on a 15-0 run to pull away, started by a Kenny Paul Geno 3-pointer, then punctuated by a 3-pointer from Kenny Gaines and two 3s by J.J. Frazier.
Georgia scored more points in the first eight minutes of the second half than it did the entire first half, when it shot 10-for-32 from the field, and 1-for-9 from beyond the arc. The only saving grace was that Missouri was just as bad.
The first half has become a huge problem for the Bulldogs, who for the third straight game set a season-low for first-half points.
Georgia still had to withstand a rally from Missouri, which drew within three in the final minute. But Frazier went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute, and a buzzer-beating 3 by Missouri only made the final score look closer.
4. MATEN LEADS THE WAY AGAIN
Until his teammates finally started going, Yante Maten carried them.
The sophomore forward had Georgia’s first six points of the second half, helping spur. He finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, leading the team in both categories, which is nothing new.
Maten also had six blocks, also a team high.
The only thing Georgia had going for it in the first half, besides Missouri, was Maten. The sophomore had nine points, including a three-point play in the final minute off the half to tie the game.
5. ANOTHER LINEUP CHANGE
Freshman Mike Edwards got his first career start, replacing fellow freshman Derek Ogbeide, who had started two straight games.
It was a bit of a surprise, considering Ogbeide came in averaging 6.8 rebounds in SEC play, while Edwards (3.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season) has been pedestrian so far.
But Fox was clearly looking for a spark, which perhaps the more athletic Edwards could provide. It didn’t work in the ugly first half, as Edwards didn’t score any points (he missed two free throws) and had two rebounds, while Ogbeide had two points and one rebound off the bench.
In fact, while Edwards started again in the second half, it was junior Houston Kessler, who started the first 12 games of the season, who saw the most minutes in the second half. Ogbeide and Edwards hardly played, as Fox stuck with same five – the four other starters plus Kessler – for most of the second half.