With the Southeastern Conference tournament in St. Louis and heralded freshman Michael Porter Jr. returning, Missouri fans were hoping to be treated to a weekend-long show from the Tigers.
Yante Maten and the Georgia Bulldogs did their best job to prevent that from happening.
Maten scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Georgia squeaked out a 62-60 victory over Missouri in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday.
Georgia, the 12th seed, led throughout the second half, but fifth-seeded Missouri narrowed the Bulldogs' lead to just two points with seven seconds left. The Tigers drew up a play for their leading scorer, Kassius Robertson. But Robertson's 3-point attempt went long and Georgia secured the victory.
After starting the game down 10-0, the Bulldogs (18-14), who face fourth-seeded Kentucky in Friday's second quarterfinal, charged back with a 12-0 run of their own. The trend continued throughout the contest: Missouri makes a run, Georgia responds.
"I felt like we got off to a very slow start but eventually found a rhythm defensively in the first half," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "(We) were able to just kind of grind to the finish."
Maten and the Bulldogs put Missouri in foul trouble early. Missouri bigs Jeremiah Tilmon and Kevin Puryear fouled out and Jontay Porter finished with four fouls.
"We did a poor job of fouling," Robertson said. "We put them in the bonus really early, and they made a lot of money at the free-throw line."
Jontay Porter led Missouri (20-12) with 20 points and eight rebounds. His brother, Michael, a projected lottery pick who played just two minutes in the season opener and later had surgery, finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, but shot just 5 for 17 from the field.
Teshaun Hightower came up big off the bench for Georgia, matching his career high of 13 points. Hightower played a big role in Georgia's win over Vanderbilt Wednesday night, when he scored 13 and had six assists.
Missouri: With a home court advantage, Missouri was obviously hoping to make it past the second round in the tournament. But the Tigers should still be safe on Selection Sunday. Porter Jr. looked good at times, but he didn't shoot well overall. If the Tigers make the NCAA tournament, it will be interesting to see his role Missouri's offense.
JONTAY VS. YANTE
Missouri's Jontay Porter and Georgia's Maten were going back and forth on the offensive end and on the boards. Each player led his team in both points and rebounding. For Porter, the 20-point performance marked his fourth game with 15 or more points in his last five contests.
"He's coming in and consistently getting the work in, working on his shots, ball-handling, his passing," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said.
For Georgia, Maten's 21-point performance comes after his 25-point showing against Vanderbilt in the first round.
"He's been just a tremendous producer for us this year," Fox said. "He can shoot threes, he can get to the foul line, he can post up and go over both shoulders."
Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. played the fifth-most minutes of Missouri players Thursday, but shot seven more times than any of his teammates. Many questioned whether Porter Jr.'s return would hurt the team's offensive flow. And while Martin said Missouri's offense didn't flow as well, he attributed that to foul trouble, rather than Porter's return.
"Because of foul trouble, we put him in some spots that he wasn't accustomed to from the time he was practicing," Martin said. "I was really trying to put him in a position where he's a spot-shooter."
Missouri will wait until Sunday to figure out where it will go next.