Michael Porter Jr. returns, but Missouri loses to Georgia in SEC Tournament

Aaron Reiss, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Basketball

ST. LOUIS -- The big return of Michael Porter Jr. began with a standing ovation from the Scottrade Center crowd before the freshman even checked into the game.

But then whatever savior narrative some in the crowd had in their heads went away -- at least for one day, after No. 5 seed Missouri lost, 62-60, to No. 12 seed Georgia in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Porter Jr. hit a 3-pointer at the top of the key with just under a minute remaining to make it a one-point game. But on the next possession, he missed a 3 from almost the exact same spot, and the Tigers fouled. The Bulldogs, who would come up with an offensive rebound on the other end, made just one of their next four free-throw attempts, which set up one last chance for Missouri.

Out of timeouts, Kassius Robertson missed a corner 3-pointer, and now Mizzou must wait until the NCAA Tournament for another chance at showing the Tigers can develop some chemistry with a star player who had not played for them since the season opener.

Porter Jr., the former No. 1 overall recruit in the country, does alter the potential of this Mizzou team. But the Tigers will have some kinks to work out as they fold him into the rotation while he adjusts to playing in real games. The 6-foot-10 forward required 17 shots -- just more than a quarter of Missouri's field-goal attempts -- to score just 12 points.

Kassius Robertson, the leader of this Tiger offense all season, scored just seven points. Jordan Barnett, Robertson's offensive partner this year, scored just three.

Mizzou made just eight field goals in the first half -- and half of them were during the game's first six minutes, as the Tigers scored the first 10 points before cooling off. Jeremiah Tilmon was 1-for-4, and Robertson -- the Tigers' leading scorer this season -- went stretches without touching the ball while Porter Jr. was on the court.

Porter Jr. rarely forced shots. He just missed them. His makes were at the rim. His missed jump shots looked slow to develop, as though his legs were understandably tired after months off. He airballed a catch-and-shoot opportunity. He bricked a turnaround jumper.

Only Jontay Porter, who made four 3-pointers to help him score a team-high 20 points, provided much offense for Mizzou, which went into halftime down 33-24.

The Tigers' committed 14 first-half fouls.

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Maten, the AP SEC Player of the Year, scored 14 points in the first half. When Martin had to put reserve center Reed Nikko on him because Kevin Puryear was in foul trouble, Maten caught the ball at the top of the key and immediately drove to the hoop for an easy dunk.

The Tigers never found a solution for him. Maten finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He made seven of 10 free throws.

Puryear picked up his fourth foul while guarding Maten just a couple of minutes into the second half. The junior scored just two points and grabbed only one rebound in 10 minutes.

Maten took a charge against Tilmon with just more than three minutes left, causing the Tigers' freshman center to foul out, too. On the Georgia possession before that play, Maten had hit a 3 over Jontay Porter to provide an answer to two Jordan Geist free throws that had trimmed the Georgia lead to one point.

Missouri had one last chance to take a lead, after Porter Jr.'s 3 made it a one-possession game yet again. But instead the star freshman's big comeback began with a dud.

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