‘Meltdown’ in Missouri, Georgia squanders 20-point lead to lose fourth straight

Georgia basketball-UGA-Anthony Edwards
Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards put forth a determined effort on the road at Missouri on Tuesday night.

Georgia basketball squandered a 20-point lead in the second half at Missouri on Tuesday night, losing its fourth game in a row, 72-69.

“We have witnessed a meltdown,” UGA play-by-play man Scott Howard said, encapsulating the game on the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network.

Anthony Edwards recorded his first career double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, playing the full 40 minutes before the crowd of 8,451 at Mizzou Arena and an SEC Network television audience.

Edwards, however, came up short on the final play of the game when his 3-point shot attempt from the wing went off the front of the rim just before time expired.

The Bulldogs (11-9, 1-6 SEC) led 59-39 with 13:33 left when Edwards, who was 9-of-24 shooting including 3 of 12 beyond the arc, hit a 3-pointer.

Georgia, playing without injured point guard Sahvir Wheeler (ankle), appeared to be in control of the game against the Tigers (10-10, 2-5).

UGA was in position to outscore an SEC opponent in the second half for the first time this season.

Instead, Missouri rallied behind Xavier Pinson moments later. Pinson, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half, sparked the rally in full with a 3-pointer that ignited a 23-4 run.

“I told my team, momentum is always up for grabs,” Crean said on his post-game radio show. “We did not guard as well in the second half, we didn’t guard the dribble as well, and we had some guys that really struggled tonight.”

Georgia failed to score a field goal for more than seven minutes during the Tigers’ run, missing seven shots during that stretch.

Senior Reed Nikko, a 6-foot-10 post, hit a pair of free throws with 2:20 left to put Missouri up 66-65, the Tigers’ first lead since a 14-13 lead less than nine minutes into the game.

But Nikko’s biggest play of the night came with 8.6 seconds left and Missouri clinging to a 71-69 lead, when he blocked an Edwards’ shot at the rim. UGA fouled immediately, but Mitchell Smith split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three. That led to Edwards’ final 3-point attempt of the night.

The Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak with the win despite Edwards recording his first 20-point scoring outing since he went for 26 in an 80-63 win over Tennessee on Jan. 15 in Athens.

Senior Tyree Crump scored 13 points and Toumani Camara added 12 for the Bulldogs, who out-rebounded Missouri 32-31 and went 17 of 21 from the free-throw line to Missouri’s 16-of-21 effort from the charity strip.

Georgia junior Rayshaun Hammonds, who entered the game as the team’s second-leading scorer, took just one shot — missing it — and had only two rebounds in his 33 minutes on the floor.

The Bulldogs held a 42-30 lead at the half on the strength of 52-percent shooting and a 21-13 rebounding advantage through the first 20 minutes.

Edwards scored the first 14 of his points in the first half, 5-of-12 shooting while pulling down five rebounds.

Crump had 11 first-half points, coming off the bench midway through the first half to hit a pair of free throws and consecutive 3-pointers that ignited a 22-3 run.

Rodney Howard’s jumper closed the Bulldogs’ pivotal surge by scoring a basket from in the paint, giving UGA its largest lead of the game to that point at 35-17 at the 4:53 mark.

Georgia returns to action at 1 p.m. on Saturday against Texas A&M (10-9, 4-3) at Stegeman Coliseum. The Aggies won at Tennessee, 63-58, on Tuesday night.

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