When Sahvir Wheeler told media members on Wednesday that his goal was to win the SEC Tournament, it seemed genuine and sincere. Unfortunately for Wheeler, his impressive performance was not fully matched by all of his teammates. Georgia fell to Missouri 73-70 on Thursday night ending a brief SEC Tournament appearance.
“It was a disappointing effort, they made a few more plays down the stretch,” said Wheeler. “We didn’t finish some plays, but we fought back.”
The Bulldogs had some stretches where they controlled the momentum and even took a one-point lead into the halftime intermission. They were unable to fully lock in on both sides of the ball though, allowing Missouri to go on a 9-0 run midway through the second half. Kobe Brown’s effort helped spark that run for the Tigers as he uncharacteristically hit two 3-pointers, extending Missouri’s lead up to 10 points.
From there, Georgia was forced to climb back into the game. The Bulldogs were able to do that but were failed by mental errors in crucial moments late leading to the loss. When Georgia cut the deficit to one point, Missouri’s Xavier Pinson had to throw up a prayer as the shot clock was winding down. Pinson missed badly, but Georgia’s Justin Kier fouled him. Pinson made all three free throws, giving the Tigers a four-point lead. He ended up leading Missouri with 17 points.
Later, Toumani Camara stepped to the free-throw line with a chance to potentially tie the game with 19 seconds left. Kier committed a lane violation though, causing Camara to only attempt one free throw, which he missed. Kier did make up for his error in a way by hitting a big 3-pointer on the team’s next possession which cut the Missouri lead to one point. P.J. Horne even had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but missed badly on an isolation three.
The Bulldogs fought all the way through Thursday’s contest and should be commended for their effort in Nashville, However, it is easy to see many scenarios in which Georgia could have won this game. Georgia is a young team, who will return most of its key players, and this experience should better the team in the future.
“That kind of sums up the season, just looking at that run, just how up and down it is [playing] in a pandemic,” said Wheeler. “It showed the heart and fight that we have as a team not to quit.”
Sahvir Wheeler finished with 14 points and 13 assists, a category he led the conference in this season. Wheeler was very effective off of the dribble, especially while using screens. Toumani Camara also posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulldogs just could not fix the two categories they have struggled in the most this season, turnovers and rebounds.
The Bulldogs only committed 13 turnovers, eight of which came in the first half. However, Missouri was able to score 19 points off those turnovers. Georgia knew the addition of Jeremiah Tilmon would make Missouri more physical in the paint. The Bulldogs did a relatively good job of keeping Tilmon in check but were still outrebounded by 10 in the second half. This was a prime example of Georgia opting for athleticism over pure size this season.
Missouri (16-8) now advances to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, where the Tigers will face the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday night. Georgia finishes the season with a 14-12 record and most likely won’t be playing any more games, although Georgia head coach Tom Crean said he has let the NCAA know he wants his team to be in consideration for the NIT.
“The last thing I want to do right now is not coach this team,” said Crean. “I told everybody after the game, the biggest thing we can do is take a couple of deep breaths, and let’s just see what happens.”