Missouri gets balanced effort in win over Georgia

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, No. 17 Missouri was already a man down. Holding Phil Pressey to just five points and six assists would seem to have been a recipe for success for Georgia. But it was the Tigers' supporting cast that helped Mizzou bounce back with a 79-62 win over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Mizzou Arena.
The Tigers got 15 points apiece from Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown in a balanced effort to keep the Bulldogs winless in Southeastern Conference play. The win pushed the Tigers to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in league play. Georgia fell to 6-10 and 0-3.
"They had very balanced scoring," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "Certainly, we wanted to do a job on Pressey, but that's why Missouri has such a great team because they have shooting and post play and always have two or three shooters on the floor and that's really hard to defend."
"We know Phil is a big playmaker for us, a leader for us, but we know that if he plays 39 minutes every night, 37, it's gonna wear on him," Missouri guard Jabari Brown said. "We just try to pick up the slack, whether it be two, three minutes here or there, just try to take care of the ball and trust in the offense until he gets back in.
Mizzou had five players in double figures, including Alex Oriakhi with 13 points and eight rebounds and Tony Criswell with 10 and six. Pressey did contribute six assists and four steals as the Tigers led by at least eight the entire second half, but it was the rest of the Tigers who Frank Haith leaned on in this win.
"That's extremely important as we move forward," Haith said. "We've been practicing a lot with Keion (Bell) playing the one and actually we'll take Phil out of practice some and just say, 'Hey, look, we don't have Phil right now.' I think we're getting better at that."
Missouri's biggest lead came at 18 points on multiple occasions in the second half. Coming off a 64-49 loss at Ole Miss on Saturday and with a road trip to Florida looming this weekend, the Tigers knew it was a game they had to have.
"We were extremely motivated, especially in practice. I feel like we had a great practices and we just definitely wanted to bounce back," Oriakhi said. "We know this is gonna be a tough road and we're gonna have bumps in the road, but coach always talks about how do you handle adversity, you know, how do you play when things don't go your way. I think it was a great test for us and we just have to build off this."
Vincent Williams and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tried to keep Georgia in it, scoring 23 and 15 points, respectively. The output marked a career high for Williams, who had never had more than 14 before Wednesday night.
"Vincent is a senior who has lost his job to a freshman and he just has great pride," Fox said. "He just really came to play, took advantage of his minutes and I thought he played very, very well."
Georgia shot 58.8 percent (10 for 17) from 3-point range, but 19 turnovers doomed the Bulldogs, who lost their eighth consecutive road game dating back to last season.
Missouri led 38-30 at halftime, paced by Oriakhi with nine points, four rebounds and two blocked shots. Three of Oriakhi's four first-half field goals came on offensive putbacks as the Tigers won the battle on the glass 18-13 thanks to nine first-half offensive rebounds.
Five different players scored for the Tigers as Missouri bolted out to a 13-4 lead early. That spurt included five points from freshman Stefan Jankovic, who was forced to the bench with three fouls with 12:14 still left in the first half. The Bulldogs finished the half on an 8-2 run to cut a 14-point Tiger lead down to eight.
NOTES: Missouri played its second consecutive game without Bowers, who sprained an MCL in his right knee against Alabama on Jan. 8. ... Tony Criswell, who had missed three games with a broken finger before returning against Ole Miss on Saturday, made the first start of his career for Mizzou. ... Georgia has lost five straight SEC road games and eight overall dating back to a 70-68 win at Mississippi State on Feb. 11, 2012. ... Vincent Williams set season highs in points (23), rebounds (4), field goals (7), 3-pointers (3) and free throws (6). ... Earnest Ross hit the floor hard once in each half, but Haith said after the game he was fine, despite icing his back for the final few minutes.

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