Bulldogs get ‘blue-collar desperate’ in win over No. 20 Missouri

ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs mounted a furious second-half comeback to erase a 13-point deficit and beat No. 20 Missouri 80-70 at Stegeman Coliseum.

It was Georgia’s first win over a ranked team this season. It was also the first time the Bulldogs (13-8, 6-8 SEC) won after trailing at halftime.

“We just had to be Dogs and get this win,” said senior Justin Kier, who led Georgia with 16 points.

Georgia trailed by four at intermission and — after three consecutive turnovers — fell behind 46-33 just 2:40 into the second half. But Georgia shot its way back by making by going 4-for-4 from 3-point range, then turned on intense defensive pressure to fuel a decisive 18-6 run that turned a tied game with five minutes to play into a 14-point Bulldogs’ lead a minute left to go.

“Coach Crean said the most desperate team was probably going to win,” said Georgia forward Toumani Camara, who had 15 points and 8 rebounds in the victory. “We’d lost two in a row, they’d lost two in a row. We just tried to stay within ourselves, but I felt like we really connected on the court.”

Freshman K.D. Johnson highlighted the decisive stretch by scoring eight points in a 43-second span off six free throws, a dunk and two steals in which the Bulldogs seized control. With 10 points and four steals, Johnson was one of five UGA players in double figures, joining Kier, Andrew Garcia (13) and Sahvir Wheeler (12 points and 7 assists). Also, Jaxon Etter scored all nine of his points, logged two steals and drew two charges in the second half.

Etter was part of a four-guard lineup coach Tom Crean sent on the floor after calling a timeout with the Bulldogs trailing by 13. They’d mount a 27-9 run over the next 11 minutes.

“We needed to change momentum,” Crean said. “It wasn’t about positions as much as it was about energy and toughness and movement. Anytime we have Jaxon and K.D. in there, they bring an energy level and competitiveness level that helps the guys. So, it was makeshift lineup based on who’s going to fight and compete.”

Georgia got two long 3-pointers from Kier and two others from Etter and P.J. Horne that pushed it ahead 60-55. Missouri tied the game at 62-all on Kobe Brown’s reverse layup at the 5:27 mark. Johnson missed two free throws at the 4:57 mark, but Camara shot inside for the putback and was fouled for a three-point play. The Bulldogs would not trail again.

It was the third loss in a row for Missouri (13-6, 6-6 SEC), which was playing without star forward Jeremy Tillmon. The Tigers got 21 points from his fill-in Kobe Brown, but could not overcome 6-for-26 3-point shootings and 11 second-half turnovers.

Georgia, which snapped a two-game losing streak, turns its attention to Saturday’s trip to Florida. The Gators (10-6, 6-5) fell to No. 24 Arkansas 75-64 Tuesday night. They defeated the Bulldogs 92-84 on Jan. 23 in Athens.

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

Georgia heads to Gainesville with new found confidence having logged its first win over a ranked opponent this season.

“We know we can’t settle, though,” Kier said. “When you get to games like this, against ranked teams, great SEC teams, you can celebrate and be happy about it, but you have to stayed locked in. We can’t slip-up now. We want to build off this.”

Crean thinks the Bulldogs can, if they continue to play “blue-collar desperate.”

“It’s getting on the floor, it’s drawing charges, it’s winning 50-50s, it’s attacking the rim, it’s not looking for a foul call,” Crean said. “It’s not whining when something doesn’t go your way.”