COLUMBIA, Mo. – Despite an opening offensive flurry, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team fell to Missouri, 79-69, in its regular season finale Saturday afternoon at Mizzou Arena.
Senior Braelen Bridges led Georgia (6-25, 1-17 SEC) in scoring with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, along with a team-high five rebounds. Sophomore Kario Oquendo tallied 17 points, while graduate Aaron Cook racked up 16 points. For the game, the Bulldogs shot 44.9 percent from the field.
“We weren’t physically aggressive, and we didn’t have a high level of compete and physicality on the glass,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “When that happens, it’s indicative of where our defense is at…It’s unfortunate because this is still a very winnable game all the way to the end.”
Georgia’s offense opened the afternoon on a tear, converting on each of its first 10 shot attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers from Oquendo and junior Jaxon Etter. After going down 16-2 four minutes into the game, Missouri (11-20, 5-13 SEC) started to cut into the lead, reducing the deficit to seven by the second media break. The Bulldogs responded with a three from senior Noah Baumann off a steal from Cook, bringing their lead back to double figures.
The Bulldogs were also able to work their way into the bonus early, fortifying their advantage with consistent trips to the foul line and going up 14 with five minutes to play. Despite Georgia’s scoring, the Tigers benefitted from the boards, hauling in nine offensive rebounds and scoring 13 second-chance points in the first half, leading to a 9-2 run near the end of the first. However, a layup from Oquendo in the closing seconds gave Georgia a 39-30 lead at the half.
Georgia’s output carried into the early moments of the second half as Bridges continued his strong performance, but three Missouri triples helped bring it to within three at the 14-minute mark. The Tigers eventually tied the game on a layup before taking their first lead with a three midway through the half. Conversely, the Bulldogs went over nine minutes without a field goal as the Missouri lead grew to 10 in the process.
After Oquendo broke the drought with a driving lay-in and Cook converted on a traditional 3-point play, Georgia now trailed by five with three minutes remaining, but Missouri answered with four quick points. Down six in the final minutes, Oquendo missed both free throw attempts, allowing Missouri to seal the game at the line.
Georgia now turns its attention to the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Tampa, Florida. The Bulldogs will take on Vanderbilt in a first-round matchup on Wednesday, March 9 at 8 p.m. on SEC Network.
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