The Missouri Tigers came into the SEC Tournament hosted in St. Louis with a roster thinner than tissue paper. Only eight players, seven scholarship dressed for practice on Wednesday and that included star freshman Michael Porter Jr.
Jordan Geist joined the team for Thursday’s game, but wasn’t fully recovered from flu-like symptoms that kept him away from the team the day prior.
Despite the home court advantage, Missouri looked out of a sync on both ends of the floor. A combination of poor shot selection and foul trouble from the Tiger’s key players ultimately resulted in a 62-60 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
A last second three-point attempt would have given the Tigers the victory, but Kassius Robertson added a little too much emphasis as the ball rattled off the back of the rim just before time expired.
Georgia outplayed Missouri in every area, led by a commanding performance from Yante Maten, who finished the game with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes.
The anticipated return of Porter Jr. wasn’t anything to write home about. The former national Gatorade Player of the Year didn’t look himself throughout the game and he admitted as such afterwards.
“I know I’m not 100 percent, but I still felt like I could help the team so that’s the whole reason I’m here,” Porter Jr. said.
With Cullen Van Leer sidelined for the season with a knee injury, Missouri’s guard play will continue to be a major question mark heading into the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers lack of a true point guard didn’t seem to affect the team all that much in Thursday’s 62-60 loss, but it’s been a contributing factor to the turnover issues Missouri has endured this season.
Porter Jr., although not fully recovered, will need to play better if the Tigers want to make a deep run in the tournament. Missouri’s veteran leadership has to play better than it did against Georgia as well.
Kevin Puryear barely found the stat sheet in Thursday’s loss scoring just two points and adding a rebound before fouling out with less than 12 minutes left in regulation.
Robertson and Jeremiah Tilmon combined for a mediocre 15 points and nine rebounds. The Tigers were lucky to even have a chance at winning.
Now Missouri awaits their fate, which will be determined during Sunday’s selection show. Joe Lunardi has the Tigers projected as an eight seed opening against Kansas State in Detroit. The winner would take on top-seeded Xavier.
Cuonzo Martin’s team didn’t make a big splash in the SEC Tournament after a commanding finish to the regular season like fans had hoped. They certainly have some adjustments to make before the big dance. The question is, can they do enough to get in sync with Porter Jr. back or will the future NBA star’s return hurt them in the long run?