Missouri excited for SEC tourney opener vs. Georgia

·2 min read

When seventh-seeded Missouri opens in the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., against Georgia, it will do so remembering the chance it didn't get last year.

Hours before the Tigers were scheduled to play Texas A&M at Bridgestone Arena, they found out the tournament was being canceled due to COVID-19. Like many other college programs, they didn't get the chance to enact closure on their season.

"So much stuff has been lost," Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But you've got to find a way to find some light in all of that to keep pushing forward. Whether you play basketball or you're just living life, you've got to find some positive in it."

There have been plenty of positives for the Tigers (15-8, 8-8) in a pandemic-shortened season, even though a false positive cost them home games and likely wins against the league's worst teams -- Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.

Missouri was a Top 25 team most of the season, and even though the Tigers slipped some down the stretch, their spot in the NCAA Tournament next week in Indianapolis seems secure. The Tigers are coming off an 86-80 home loss Saturday to LSU despite 17 points from Dru Smith and 14 from Xavier Pinson.

Smith's 14.1 points per game leads four players in double figures for the Tigers this season. Pinson follows closely at 14 ppg, followed by Jeremiah Tilmon's 12.5 and Mark Smith's 10 ppg.

As for 10th-seeded Georgia (14-11, 7-11), it led SEC regular-season champion Alabama 36-30 at halftime Saturday, but then gave up 59 second-half points in an 89-79 home loss.

The Bulldogs wasted Sahvir Wheeler's seventh double-double of the season. He put up 18 points and 10 assists in the defeat, while K.D. Johnson added 16 points and Toumani Camara pitched in 13.

"We competed heavily," said Georgia coach Tom Crean. "We followed the game plan. We self-inflicted a few things with our missed free throws, with our not guarding the ball as well. We just have to continue to control the things that we can control."

Wheeler leads the Bulldogs' attack, averaging 14 points and 7.2 assists per game. He stuffed the stat sheet in the teams' only meeting this season on Feb. 16, scoring 12 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out six assists in an 80-70 Georgia win.

--Field Level Media