Georgia Bulldogs overwhelmed by Missouri in second half

Georgia center Braelen Bridges (23) goes up with one of his five made shots on five attempts  against Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. (Tony Walsh/UGA Athletic Association)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Georgia center Braelen Bridges (23) goes up with one of his five made shots on five attempts against Missouri at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. (Tony Walsh/UGA Athletic Association)

ATHENS – The Senior Day enthusiasm and energy that lifted Georgia to a halftime lead over Missouri apparently was left in the locker room Saturday as the Bulldogs were buried under a barrage of 3-point shots and lost for only the third time this season at Stegeman Coliseum, 85-63.

First-year coach Mike White opted to start all five of the team’s seniors in honor of the occasion, and that group had a lot to do with staking Georgia to a seven-point lead with 2:12 to go in the first half. At that point, the Bulldogs had made eight of their 16 3-point attempts, including three by senior Mardrez McBride.

But Georgia wouldn’t score for the rest of the half, adjourning for intermission with a 41-40 lead. Missouri outscored the Bulldogs 21-3 from then through the 13:46 media timeout of the second half. The Tigers would keep building from there, outscoring Georgia 45-22 in the second half.

“There was a lot of energy and definitely adrenalin running in the first half,” said Jailyn Ingram, a seventh-year senior from Madison who made his first start of the season. “The seniors know at that point we’ve only got two (games) left (at home), and we just wanted to go out there and leave everything on the floor.”

The trouble was, Georgia could not sustain it in the second half. Senior center Braelen Bridges quickly converted a hook shot 11 seconds in, then the Tigers scored 10 consecutive points. The Bulldogs trailed 55-44 by the 13:46 mark, then looked up with 1:10 remaining to realize they trailed by 26.

“Coach White is going to come in here and say something along the lines of ‘This one is on him,’ but it wasn’t,” Georgia senior Jaxon Etter said. “I promise you, this was on the players; this was on the team; this was on us. … There was a considerable lack of defensive effort on our part.”

The box score would validate that. Missouri shot 57.9% from the floor and made 14 of 28 3-pointers, seven in each half. The Tigers (21-8, 9-7 SEC) got 18 points from D’Moi Hodge and 17 from Nick Honor. They made 11 3-pointers between them.

Georgia’s 41 points at halftime was its third most in SEC play this season, but they managed only 22 after intermission. Kario Oquendo led the team with 14 points, McBride made a season-high four 3-pointers and Bridges finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

“Really good team. They were fantastic offensively,” White said. “They put us in a lot of compromising situations. They shoot it, they score off the bounce, they share it, played hard and were really prepared.”

With two games remaining in the regular season, the loss relegated Georgia to trying not to be one of the bottom four seeds for the SEC Tournament on March 8-12 in Nashville. The Bulldogs (16-13, 6-10 SEC) entered Saturday just above that mark, thanks to holding the tiebreaker over Mississippi State.

Missouri also is playing under a first-year coach in Dennis Gates. With back-to-back victories and games remaining with bottom-third SEC opponents LSU and Ole Miss, the Tigers now have an excellent opportunity to win out and earn the coveted double-bye for the conference tournament.

Gates was considered for Georgia’s coaching vacancy once UGA decided to part ways with Tom Crean. Gates arrived at Missouri from Cleveland State.

“It was an emotional game, simply because this was Senior Day for the Georgia Bulldogs,” Gates said. “I knew Mike White would have his team prepared to play, and they came out blazing.”

Georgia wraps up its home slate with a game at 7 p.m. Tuesday against White’s old team, the Florida Gators. The regular-season finale is on the road at South Carolina on Saturday.

“We’re playing for each other,” White said. “1-2-3 family; 1-2-3 team. That’s what we say in the huddle, and it means something. … I’m as down as anyone, but our first 20 (minutes) was pretty good.”