Sometimes, things happen for a reason
Thu, 09 Jan 2014 05:07:49 GMT —
COLUMBIA --- This would not have been considered a quality win.
It will be considered, however, a bad loss. A really bad loss.
But perhaps, just perhaps, it was meant to be.
The Georgia Bulldogs entered Wednesday night's game with a 6-6 record, 0-5 on the road, losing their last two road games by a combined 32 points.
The No. 21 Missouri Tigers had the nation's longest home winning streak at 26 straight.
We can forget about that now.
The Bulldogs outscored the Tigers 12-1 in the final 2 1/2 minutes of overtime to stun Missouri 70-64 before a polite gathering of 9,268 fans at Mizzou Arena in the SEC opener for both teams.
"They played harder than we did, they were tougher than we were," Missouri coach Frank Haith said. "It was just a matter of time until those things came back and haunted us."
Tougher? Look no farther than the battle of the boards.
"They physically whipped us," Haith said. "They had 15 offensive rebounds (Georgia held a 43-34 edge, overall) and scored 40 points in the paint (to Missouri's 26).
"They just dominated the game in the paint."
Georgia (7-6, 1-0 SEC) scored the game's first eight points, before Missouri (12-2, 0-1) took its first lead at 20-19 on a 3-pointer by Earnest Ross with 5:55 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs scored the next 11 points, however, and held a 30-25 lead at the break.
Mizzou Arena was library-quiet. You couldn't blame the fans for their docile attitude, however, and there were at least three reasons for this:
1. Tiger fans were still basking in the glow of a Cotton Bowl win and a top-five finish in the final AP Poll. It's a tough transition from exciting football to, well, this.
2. Baby, it's cold outside ... they knew what was waiting for them when they left the building.
3. There wasn't much to cheer about.
The Tigers did build as much as a five-point lead in the second half, but trailed by three down the stretch.
Jordan Clarkson drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 52 seconds left in regulation, however, to pull the Tigers even at 56-56. And after a defensive stop, Clarkson tried to win it at the buzzer, but his 17-footer clanked off the left side of the rim.
Jabari Brown (who led the Tigers with 19 points) hit a 3-pointer early in overtime to give the Tigers the lead, which was bumped to 63-58 with 2:51 left on a three-point play by Ross (who scored 15).
But that was that, as the Bulldogs finished with a 12-1 burst to win going away.
"There were so many plays in the game ... little things that beat us and cost us the game," Haith said. "We just have to get tougher."
We'll close with these two notes.
Sixteen months ago in Columbia, Georgia beat Missouri in its inaugural SEC football game. The Tigers' season subsequently went into a downward spiral from which they never recovered.
Wednesday night, Georgia beat Missouri in this SEC opener. We'll see what happens the rest of the way.
But then there's this.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox broke down and sobbed uncontrollably in the closing moments of overtime, head buried in hands, when the game was obviously decided.
His mentor and father, Raymond --- who was also a coach --- passed away over the weekend. Raymond was 78.
"My dad was a real tough son of a gun," Fox said. "I got a little emotional in the first half and caught myself. I thought, 'I am going to get my butt chewed when I get home.' I just tried to compose myself and keep our team on the right path."
This was a bad loss to a bad team for the Tigers, but it was a heart-warming moment for Fox, who was embraced by his players after the game as he cried on their shoulders.
Life is a lot bigger than one basketball game in January. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. The right reason.
Perhaps this was just meant to be.