ATHENS — The scuffle among assistant coaches will go down as the most memorable moment from this one. But it was also the most important moment.
It was a game that Georgia couldn’t afford to lose, and it was as halftime arrived. But the ensuing incident that led to technical fouls fired up not just Georgia’s team but its crowd, and the second half belonged to the Bulldogs.
They pulled ahead and then held off Missouri for the 71-66 victory, with J.J. Frazier — silent until just before halftime — leading the way. It would have been an RPI and resume’-killing game. (Missouri entered with an RPI rank of 263.) Instead, Georgia (now 10-5 overall and 2-1 in the SEC) will hope it was the moment and the game that fired up its season.
– Player of the game: Frazier was scoreless and had taken just one shot before he hit a runner with six seconds left in the first half. He carried the momentum into the second half, scoring the first four points and 10 of the first 23 to help his team go up eight. And when Missouri rallied to briefly take a one-point lead, Frazier’s play — a couple steals and subsequent baskets — helped Georgia go up by 11. (Freshman Jordan Harris also had a key play: His team leading by one, Harris grabbed a defensive rebound, drove the length of the court and made a layup while being fouled. He made the free throw.)
– Stat line of the game: Georgia had a season-high 20 turnovers, including 12 in the first half. That was after committing 16 in the loss to South Carolina, when the Bulldogs seemed overly-excited. This time, they seemed out of sorts and unfocused — until the second half.
– Turning point: What else? Just after the halftime buzzer, the two teams got into a scrum under Georgia’s basket. It started slowly, with Georgia power forward Yante Maten grabbing the rebound and a Missouri player grabbing at the ball. But tempers flared and eventually Missouri assistant coach Steve Shields and Georgia director of operations Kent Davison had to be held back. Both were charged with “unsporting” technical fouls, though without free throws being taken when the second half started. Either way, the incident fired up the home crowd, and the Bulldogs grabbed the lead with a 15-6 run that started with Frazier’s basket just before halftime.
– What’s next: Georgia goes on the road twice next week, starting with Wednesday at Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET. Then the Bulldogs go to Florida on Saturday. If the Bulldogs can come away with a win in one of those games, it would go a long way toward enhancing their NCAA hopes.