Four days after snapping the longest losing streak in program history, Missouri hoped to ride a crest of momentum to an upset Saturday at Georgia.
Instead, the Tigers were devoured by a pack of Bulldogs hungry for the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.
Led by senior Nemanja Djurisic’s game-high 14 points, Georgia, 19-9 and 10-6 in the Southeastern Conference, bullied Missouri 68-44 in front of 9,389 at Stegeman Coliseum.
“Georgia did a great job early on of playing hard, and that’s one of their strengths,” first-year coach Kim Anderson said. “Every loose ball, every rebound that flew off, they seemed to get it. They ended up with 19 offensive boards and I think, again, we didn’t react well to the way they played.”
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It was the sixth loss by at least 20 points this season for the Tigers, 8-21 overall and 2-14 in conference.
Missouri now has lost 14 consecutive road games overall and 13 straight in conference.
The Bulldogs, whose largest margin of victory in SEC play before Saturday was 12 points, owned a 47-30 rebounding edge and parlayed that into a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Meanwhile, the Tigers shot only 28.6 percent from the field, going 14 of 49 overall and four of 17 from three-point range.
Missouri, which committed nine of its 14 turnovers in the second half, also struggled at the free-throw line, shooting below 60 percent at 12 of 21 overall.
It was the fewest points the Tigers have scored, the largest margin of defeat (24) and worst shooting percentage aside from an 86-37 loss Jan. 13 at Kentucky, when MU shot 27.1 percent overall.
Two players reached double figures for Missouri with sophomore Johnathan Williams III and freshman Namon Wright each finishing with 10.
The Bulldogs, who played 14 players and led by as many as 28 points in the second half, led 41-23 at halftime.
“They played with more energy and more physical than us,” said freshman forward Jakeenan Gant, a Georgia native who spoke by phone from the team plane after no players were made available for interviews at the arena.
Georgia owned a 25-18 first-half rebounding, while Missouri shot only 25.8 percent from the field, going eight of 31 overall and three of 10 from three-point range.
The Tigers, who snapped a 13-game losing streak Tuesday against Florida at Mizzou Arena, started the game one of nine from the field as the Bulldogs built a quick eight-point lead.
Missouri has made a habit of spotting the home team sizable early leads.
“It’s happened on the road now a couple times in a row …,” Anderson said. “These guys, to their credit, Georgia came out today and they were ready to play. It is frustrating. In the first half, our front line really struggled to score.”
Williams, junior Ryan Rosburg, senior Keanau Post and Gant combined to shoot two of 14 from the field in the first half.
The Tigers also were plagued by impatience against the Bulldogs’ zone.
“We can’t do that,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to continue to execute, and everybody’s got to execute. It can’t be four guys and one guy’s trying to take off. I thought we had some decent shots … but we didn’t make them.”
Djurisic went on a personal 7-2 run that bumped the lead into double digits before a bucket by Missouri freshman Montaque Gill-Caesar with 7:05 remaining trimmed the lead to 27-18.
Next came one of the Tigers’ all-too-familiar scoring droughts, a 4:09 stretch without a point as the Bulldogs pumped the lead to 16 points.
Georgia’s lead reached as many as 20 points on a jumper by senior Marcus Thornton in the closing minute before halftime, but Williams managed a putback at the buzzer, ending a field-goal drought of more than seven minutes.
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