ATHENS, Ga. — A tussle between assistant coaches that took place as the first half ended Saturday appeared to be a big factor in Georgia’s strong second-half performance as the Bulldogs defeated Missouri 71-66 in Southeastern Conference play.
Georgia trailed the Tigers 26-20 at halftime, but had runs of 11-2 and 12-0 to outscore Missouri by 11 points in the final 20 minutes.
Neither Georgia coach Mark Fox nor Missouri coach Kim Anderson had a lot to say about the brief scuffle under the Missouri basket, although Anderson said the Bulldogs’ fans played a key role in Georgia’s resurgence.
“I didn’t see what started it and I tried to get in and calm people down,” Anderson said. “In the second half, we knew they’d make a run, which they did. I’m sure the run was fueled by what happened at the end of the first half. The crowd was great, but we withstood it and fought back. It tells me a lot about these guys.”
All Fox would offer was praise for the crowd of 8,600 at Stegeman Coliseum.
“Guys got tied up with the ball, but until I see the tape I won’t (say anything),” he said. “Our crowd certainly lifted our team today.”
Yante Maten scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs (10-5, 2-1), who also got 16 points and four assists from J.J. Frazier, 12 points and five rebounds from Pape Diatta and 11 points and six rebounds from Juwan Parker.
“There was a lot of energy in the building, on our team, the coaching staff, everywhere,” Maten said. “It wasn’t hard to really find energy to play the game. Sometimes you got to get yourself riled up, but everybody was really riled up at that point during the second half.”
Frazier, who averages 16 points a game for Georgia, tallied 14 points in the second half.
Terrence Phillips scored 20 points, Jordan Barnett had 15, and K.J. Walton added 13 for Missouri (5-9, 0-2).
Georgia made 21 of 46 field goals (46 percent) while the Tigers made 25 of 72 shot attempts (35 percent), and won the rebound battle 44-35, the 12th time in 15 games the Bulldogs have owned the glass this season.
Georgia won for the fifth time in its last seven games. Missouri has lost six straight and six in a row to Georgia. Their last victory over the Bulldogs came on Jan. 15, 2013, when they won 79-62 in Columbia.
Georgia’s disappointing first half included 12 turnovers (which Missouri turned into 14 points) but the Bulldogs — especially Frazier — came out energized for the final 20 minutes. Frazier blamed himself for Georgia’s 67-61 loss on Wednesday against South Carolina and took only two shots in the first half.
“I took care of the ball better,” said Frazier, who had four turnovers against South Carolina but only two against Missouri. “I don’t really care about how many shots I make or miss, but I have to be able to get our team in position to make plays, and if I turn the ball over that’s less possessions for my teammates to possibly score or make a play. Against South Carolina I turned the ball over at crucial times and that’s what hurt us.”
Georgia scored first in the game at the 18:50 mark on a free throw by Maten and the Bulldogs didn’t regain the lead until the 17:33 mark of the second half when Frazier connected on two free throws to go ahead 29-28.
Missouri fought back and took a 52-51 advantage with 7:20 remaining on a free throw by Walton, but the Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 20-41 in the final minutes of play as Diatta hit three free throws in the final seconds to ice the game.
Georgia: The Bulldogs bounced back from their six-point SEC loss to South Carolina earlier in the week to post a 2-1 mark in the conference.
Missouri: The Tigers’ woes away from home continue as Missouri is 1-3 at neutral sites and 0-1 on the road.
With 17 points, Yante Maten posted his 14th double-figure scoring outing of the season and the 49th of his career. J.J. Frazier had his 13th double-digit game of the season and 58th of his career, and Derek Ogbeide recorded 11 rebounds, the third time this season he’s had double-figure rebounds.
OH, MY PAPE
Georgia’s Pape Diatta came off the bench to post a career-high 12 points and 27 minutes on Saturday. His previous best scoring performance was nine points, which came on Nov. 25 in a 77-59 victory over Gardner-Webb.
Georgia and Missouri teamed to toss up 49 three-pointers on Saturday. The Bulldogs made 2 of 13 trey attempts while the Tigers made six of 36 3-point tries.
“We can’t shoot 36 threes,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said. “I thought at times we settled a little bit. Both of us were playing a lot of zone and there were a lot of open shots. They didn’t make very many threes either.”
BAD START, BETTER FINISH
With 20 first-half points, Georgia turned in a season low for offense in the first 20 minutes. The previous low was 27 points against Georgia Tech on Dec. 20. But the Bulldogs came back with 51 second-half points, their second-best performance after collecting 53 points on Dec. 29 at Auburn.
Led in no small part by Terrence Phillips’ 20 points off the bench, Missouri’s substitutes scored 22 points to Georgia’s 20. Frankie Hughes added two points for the Tigers while Georgia’s subs were paced by Pape Diatta’s 12 points. Turtle Jackson and Houston Kessler added three points each for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs’ two-game home stand comes to an end, with Georgia on the road Wednesday at Ole Miss and on Saturday at No. 24 Florida.
The Tigers will host Auburn Tuesday before back-to-back road games at Arkansas (Jan. 14) and Alabama (Jan. 18).