Georgia and Missouri are two teams looking to start SEC play with a win. Which one has the advantage in Saturday's matchup?
TV Schedule: Saturday, January 6, 1:00 PM ET (SECN)
Location: Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri
Missouri (8-5) looks to get a second straight win on Saturday as they welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to town to kick off SEC play. The Tigers took down Central Arkansas the last time they took the court in a dominant 33-point win, ending a three-game losing streak. Tamar Bates led all scorers with a career-high 25 points, going 9-10 from the floor with three made threes. Four other Tigers joined Bates in double figures. Sean East II scored 16, Noah Carter and Connor Vanover chipped in 11 points each, and Aidan Shaw added 10 points, also a career-high.
As he has for most of the season, Sean East II continues to lead the Tigers in scoring with 17.1 points per game. Noah Carter is adding a solid 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Over the past three games, Mizzou’s offensive star has been Tamar Bates. Bates is averaging 19 points over that period, scoring more than 20 points twice.
Georgia (10-3) is riding an eight-game win streak. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have only played one game away from their home court, a two-point win in Tallahassee against a struggling Florida State team. All three of UGA’s losses came in neutral site games in the first month of the season, against teams well on their way to the NCAA Tournament. Since then their schedule has cooled off setting up some easier wins.
The Bulldogs are led in scoring by a couple of senior guards. Jabri Abdur-Rahim leads the team with 13.2 points per game. And Noah Thomasson is averaging 12.3 points. A few other Georgia players are averaging just under ten points per game to round out their scoring.
In a game that features two evenly matched teams, it's the little things will make the biggest difference. For Missouri, this means continuing to alter shots inside. Before the most recent game, the Tigers struggled with interior defense. The UCA game helped get things moving in the right direction. The Tigers were able to dominate the boards and block six shots. Jordan Butler made the most of his minutes and led the team with two blocked shots. Mizzou currently ranks eighth in blocked shots with six per game and will need to continue on that pace as they enter conference play.
Georgia has been one of the better teams in the country when it comes to getting to the free throw line. The Bulldogs get to the line nearly 25 times a game, making just under 70 percent of these attempts. This is a huge advantage for Georgia, as Missouri sends their opponents to the free throw line over 20 times a game.
I think Missouri can get a win on their home court to open SEC play. If the Tigers defend the paint well and force turnovers they should be able to outmatch a Georgia team that has played an easier schedule over the past month. A win to open conference play would be huge for Missouri's postseason hopes.