Missouri overcomes slow start to handle Georgia in SEC showdown, 68-56

After trailing the entire first half, the Tigers brought their shooting up 30 percent to spark the turnaround.
Jeremiah TIlmon rises to the basket against Iowa State on Nov. 10, 2017.

Going into its bout with Georgia Wednesday night, Missouri basketball didn't expect a lower-scoring first half than that of the football game between the two schools in October.

But down 23-20 at the break, Cuonzo Martin's squad made all the adjustments that led to a 68-56 win over the Bulldogs (11-4, 2-2) in Columbia. Mizzou (12-4) advanced to 2-1 in SEC play with the win, which came the same day former point guard Blake Harris committed to North Carolina State.

Missouri’s reputation as a hot-or-cold shooting team furthered early on with a 1-for-9 start from beyond the arc that helped yield six points in the first 9 ½ minutes. The first-half deficit reached as many as seven points, but the Tigers kept it a one-possession game into the intermission despite a 27 percent shooting mark.

It wouldn’t take long for that total to jump, as Mizzou took control not long after halftime, aided by separate 11-0 and 16-2 scoring runs that turned the tide after it trailed 25-22. Breakdowns in Georgia’s defense led to two momentum-building transition dunks from Missouri freshman Jeremiah Tilmon, who stayed out of foul trouble and earned more minutes than in either of his frustrating outings to start conference play.

When the Bulldogs made their push to keep the game close, Mizzou had all the answers. Graduate transfer Kassius Robertson responded to seven unanswered Georgia points with a single-handed 8-2 run. He drained back-to-back triples, separated by a steal and fast-break dunk, all signalling the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs. It was all part of an effort that turned around Mizzou’s abysmal shooting in the first half — the Tigers shot 57 percent after the break, guided by 15 points on the night from Robertson and freshman Jontay Porter. Porter added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Meanwhile, Tilmon’s newfound availability opened up another double-digit performance, and junior Jordan Geist added 10 in his second straight game starting at point guard after the loss of Harris.

Missouri travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday for a conference showdown with Arkansas, a team recently removed from the top 25. The game is set to tip off at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.

Edited by Garrett Jones | gjones@themaneater.com

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