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Bulldog run decks Mizzou

For nearly 25 minutes, Georgia and Missouri matched each other with some excruciatingly painful basketball. Then the Bulldogs woke up for about six minutes...and these days, that’s enough to put the Tigers in a hole from which they can’t escape.

UGA went on a 17-0 run in a little less than six minutes, turning a 34-33 deficit into a 50-34 lead. And that was plenty to send the Tigers to their fourth loss in five SEC games. The result was a 60-57 loss. The process of getting there looked a whole lot like a lot of other Missouri games.

“It’s looking like the same song, but I mean, we’re not purposely doing it,” freshman Kevin Puryear said. “We’re just falling behind and having mental lapses and we can’t have that. We just need to be smarter.”

The Tigers have been competitive in spurts. They have played with teams for stretches. But nearly every night, there seems to be a flurry of punches thrown that Missouri simply can’t answer. When they get hit, the Tigers don’t hit back. Or if they do, it takes too long.

“We have to understand that if we get behind, if you’re behind by eight, you don’t get one shot off for eight points,” head coach Kim Anderson said. “There’s not an eight point play. You’ve got to keep grinding back. The same way you got behind is the same way you’re going to get back ahead. Two and three points at a time.”

“We don’t have that one guy that can just go get it for us so we have to play as a team,” freshman Terrence Phillips said. “When we get in those scoring droughts, we’ve got to stay together and we’ve got to execute our offense down the stretch.”

Anderson said he didn’t think the 17-0 run was what lost the game. Instead he pointed to the first half in which Georgia shot 31% and made just one three-pointer and Missouri did not make the Bulldogs pay.

“Actually I did,” UGA coach Mark Fox said when asked if he felt fortunate to be tied at 22 at halftime. “I knew that eventually we would kind of come back to a rhythm we’ve been playing with a lot of the last five or six weeks. We didn’t panic, we just tried to stay true to ourselves and it worked out for us.”

It was the exact thing Kim Anderson said his team was unable to do during Georgia’s decisive run.

“I thought we panicked. I thought we tried to take the ball to the basket too much,” he said. “We ran the same stuff but then they stopped it and we didn’t adjust. That’s been a problem for us is having that guy that can take the basketball and either create something for himself or create something for somebody else.”

Missouri did make a charge. The Tigers cut the Georgia lead to three on two occasions in the final five minutes and then again when Phillips’ three-pointer fell through at the buzzer. But the lead at that point was too big, the margin of error too thin, the decisive blows already struck.

In this second consecutive lost season--one which now won’t feature even the last-chance salvo of the SEC Tournament thanks to NCAA sanctions piled on top of all the other injuries and insults--those that follow Missouri basketball are searching for glimmers of hope, no matter how faint or fleeting. While there have been some--and were some on Wednesday night--they simply don’t last long enough to deliver wins.

“Honestly I think we’ve made some good progress, some positive steps,” Puryear said. “There are no moral victories in basketball so we’d definitely like to see some increases in the win column. But I think we’ve been playing a lot better basketball than we did early in the season.”

“We’re seeing improvement,” Namon Wright said. “We know we’re just as good as the rest of the guys in our league. We lose this game by three, we’ve played good teams and, you know, we’re real close.

"We know we’re there, but we got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”

“I am,” Anderson said when asked if he is seeing improvement. “But we’re not winning games. All we can do is and this is a broken record, but all we can do is keep working, trying to get better.”

So on it goes. Missouri is now 8-10, 1-4 in SEC play, still one away from matching last year’s lowest in a half-century victory total. Upcoming are road trips to conference-leading Texas A&M and SEC bully Kentucky. And for Missouri, the elusive search a complete game--and for wins--continues.

“It’s hard getting through this,” Phillips said. “You’ve just got to keep fighting for the guys to the right and to the left of you.”