Tom Crean’s long, difficult first season season as Georgia’s head basketball coach came to an end Wednesday night in the first round of the SEC tournament.
The Bulldogs’ shooting struggles led to a 71-61 loss to No. 12-seed Missouri at Bridgestone Arena. The Tigers (15-16) advance to play No. 5-seed Auburn (22-9) at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Georgia junior guard Jordan Harris scored a career-high 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, but the team was a collective 18-of-49 from the floor and 21-of-36 from the free-throw line.
Second-team All-SEC pick Nicolas Claxton scored 11 points, blocked six shots and pulled down six rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Claxton, however, was only 7-of-13 from the free-throw line before fouling out with 2:58 remaining and UGA down 60-51.
Claxton picked up his fourth foul on a charge, leaving the game with the Bulldogs trailing 47-43 at the 9:22 mark. The No. 13-seed Bulldogs (11-21) failed to draw closer than four points the remainder of the game.
Georgia led by as many as seven points in the first half before taking a 34-32 lead into intermission.
It was the Bulldogs’ first halftime lead since their 82-63 win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 9. The only other game UGA didn’t trail at halftime since then was a halftime tie score in its 98-88 win over Texas on Jan. 26.
Harris scored 10 of his points through the first 20 minutes, and he could have had more had he not missed two dunks.
Georgia’s early lead came via hustle points, the Bulldogs holding a 10-2 advantage at the half in second-chance points.
The Bulldogs eliminated Missouri from the SEC tournament in the second round last year in St. Louis, 62-60.
Georgia’s 11 wins this season are the fewest since the 2004-05 Bulldogs were 8-20 in Dennis Felton’s second season as head coach. The 2-16 conference mark was the worst since 1973-74, when Georgia was 2-16 (and 6-20 overall) under John Guthrie.
A group of six seniors, including Wednesday starters William “Turtle” Jackson, Derek Ogbeide and E’Torrion Wilridge, leaves Georgia laying claim to having never lost to rival Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs’ seniors were 4-0 against the Yellow Jackets, including this season’s 70-59 victory in Atlanta.
A 61-55 win over rival Florida on March 2 proved to be the marquee conference win, while the win over Texas on Jan. 26 in Athens highlighted the non-conference action.
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