Return of Michael Porter Jr. Spoiled by Georgia

Jacob Lang, 23 Sports Reporter

The much anticipated return of superstar freshman Michael Porter Jr. for Thursday’s SEC Tournament opener was tainted by the end result.  Porter Jr.’s presence was not enough for Mizzou, as they fell to the Georgia Bulldogs by a score of 62-60.

Despite a standout performance by Jontay Porter, who contributed 20 points, eight rebounds, and two assists for his second 20-point performance in the last three games, the Tigers were overpowered by a Georgia team led by the SEC Player of the Year, Yante Maten.  Maten led all scorers with 21 points, adding 10 rebounds and two blocks.  The return of Michael Porter Jr. was solid but not overpowering; he scored 12 points and added eight rebounds.  Mizzou’s leading scorer for the season, Kassius Robertson, was only able to muster seven points on three of 10 shooting, including a would be go-ahead three that clanked out in the final seconds of the game.

Mizzou jumped out to an early lead, with Michael Porter Jr.’s first game action since Nov. 10 coming two minutes and 38 seconds into the game.  The Tigers went up 10-0 after Michael’s coast-to-coast give and go with his brother Jontay for his first bucket since his debut.  After the Tigers held a 12-5 lead into the under 12 timeout, Georgia went on a 14-0 run, taking the lead from the Tigers by the 10 minute mark.  Michael Porter Jr. finally put an end to the run with a three-pointer with just minutes left in the first half.  Mizzou shot a collective 1-17 in this 10 minute stretch.  Georgia rode a tough defensive showing to a 33-24 halftime lead.

After a Georgia three increased their lead to 12 right out of the break, Kassius Robertson quickly answered back with his first bucket of the game.  Mizzou started to gain momentum early in the second half and tied the game with 14 minutes left.  Foul trouble plagued the Tigers yet again, though, as Kevin Puryear and Jeremiah Tilmon each fouled out, the former with 12 minutes still left in the game.  Despite this, the Tigers’ D was able to come up with a few big stops, and a Michael Porter Jr. three brought the Tigers within one with a minute left to play.  After a Rayshaun Hammonds free throw brought the Bulldogs’ lead to 62-60, the Tigers drew up a last second shot to Kassius Robertson, who was unable to sink the open corner three that would have won the game.

Sitting with a 20-12 record, Mizzou is still in a good position heading into the NCAA Tournament.  The Tigers now look forward to Selection Sunday where they expect to be given a bid.  If they qualify, the Tigers will begin play in the tournament next week.