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Missouri offense comes alive in second half against Georgia

Missouri offense comes alive in second half against Georgia

January 11th, 2018 by Colin O'Brien in Mizzou Sports

Missouri's Jontay Porter knocks the ball away from Georgia's William Jackson II during the second half of Wednesday night's game at Mizzou Arena.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA — As ugly as Missouri's first half was offensively against Georgia on Wednesday at Mizzou Arena, its second half in a 68-56 win was as crisp and clean as they come.

The Tigers scored just 20 points in the first half and trailed by three at the break. But Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon scored Missouri's first seven points out of the 48-point second half to take the lead for good.

Just one of the team's six turnovers came in the second half and the Tigers shot 30 percentage points better from the floor in the second half as opposed to the first (57.1 to 26.7). They finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor while Georgia shot 37 percent.

"They just came out playing harder than us, is all," said Tilmon, who scored 10 points on nine shots and two fouls. "We grinded it out, came out second half and got the W."

In his first collegiate start, Porter scored 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds, his second career double-double. Kassius Robertson made 3-of-5 3-point attempts and also finished with 15 points, and Jordan Geist added 10 points, four assists and four rebounds while committing no turnovers.

Cuonzo Martin said he started Porter instead of Kevin Puryear to give Puryear a chance to relax on the court. Puryear finished the game with nine points on eight shots and tore off his own mini-run with seven straight points on three consecutive possessions, including a three and a beautiful drive and finish at the rim.

Yante Maten, a preseason All-SEC selection and the Bulldogs' do-everything forward, was held to season lows in both points (9) and rebounds (2). He entered the game averaging 20 and nine.

"Give their team defense credit," Georgia coach Mark Fox said after the game. "Yante's been a good player. He was not a good player tonight. Their defense deserves some credit for that, but not all of it.

"I didn't like his response today. He's been a great player, he's a terrific player. Tonight he didn't respond to the challenge, really. He didn't play as well."

Missouri (12-4, 2-1 SEC) was able to compensate for an off night from beyond the arc and from Jordan Barnett, scoring 32 points in the paint and 16 points off 12 Georgia turnovers, the highlight of which was Robertson picking Rayshaun Hammond's pocket at mid-court and flushing a one-handed jam at the 9:42 mark of the second half.

The Tigers shot 5-for-20 (25 percent) from 3-point range, the lowest since finishing 18.5 percent against Illinois.

Barnett finished with seven points on 2-of-7 shooting, 1-of-5 from three, in one of those nights where nothing seemed to fall against a good defensive team. It breaks his streak of 10 double-digit scoring games.

But Missouri didn't need him on offense like it did against the Illini, when he was the only one who could score in the first half, or in its first two SEC games when he couldn't miss when given a few inches of space. Barnett also had eight rebounds, two blocks, a steal and an assist in 37 minutes.

It's promising the Tigers could turn to other options on offense and allow Barnett to contribute his usual effort on the defensive end without worrying about scoring.

And of those other options, Georgia (11-4, 2-2 SEC) really had no answer for Porter and Tilmon down low, especially in the second half. Tilmon missed all three field-goal attempts in the first 20 minutes and then scored all 10 of his points and made 5-of-6 shots in the second half.

Missouri plays Saturday evening at Arkansas (11-5, 1-3 SEC), which lost its third straight conference game Thursday, this one a beating at home at the hands of LSU, 75-54. The game starts at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.