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Monday May 4th, 2015 9:16AM

Georgia takes out Missouri at home, stays near top of SEC

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- Charles Mann can now see a bright side to Georgia's rough start to the season.

"We knew we were a great team," he said. "People didn't believe that, but we believed in each other and in the system. We wanted to come out and play hard just to win this year."

Mann scored 19 points, Marcus Thornton added 15 and Georgia won its second straight game with a 71-56 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs (16-11, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) have won six of seven to strengthen their hold on third place in the league.

Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson each finished with 17 points for Missouri (19-9, 7-8 SEC).

The Tigers, coming off Saturday's dispirited loss at Alabama, might have hurt their chance of making a sixth straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

"No, we're just trying to win," Brown said. "We're not trying to put extra pressure on ourselves. We've got to have faith in our team and each other."

Georgia, which went just 6-6 in nonconference play, began the SEC schedule by snapping Missouri's 26-game home winning streak on Jan. 8. Only No. 1 Florida and No. 17 Kentucky have performed better.

But Thornton said the Bulldogs aren't discussing their postseason prospects. They still have a lot of work to do to earn an NCAA bid.

Georgia closes the regular season with games at Arkansas, against Mississippi State and at LSU.

"We're not necessarily worried about that," Thornton said. "So focus on the next game and try to put ourselves in position to win."

Missouri dropped into a two-way tie for 10th place with Vanderbilt.

The Tigers' last lead came on Brown's layup midway through the first half. Missouri was outscored 16-6 over the final 9:12 before intermission.

Mann opened up the second half with a straightaway 3, and Juwan Parker's three-point play a couple of minutes later gave Georgia its first double-digit lead at 37-26.

Despite outrebounding the Bulldogs, Missouri struggled in nearly every other facet of the game, missing 15 of its first 16 attempts beyond the arc, getting outscored 38-18 in the paint and 11-2 on fast breaks.

"Shots weren't falling," Tigers coach Frank Haith said. "Georgia is a good defensive team, but I thought we had a lot of good looks."

Georgia's Kenny Gaines, coming off career-high 27 points at South Carolina, finished with 10 points.

The Tigers dropped to 2-6 in SEC road games. They finished 2-7 on the road in their first SEC season last year.

Missouri's defense has really struggled in the last two games. Georgia, which began the night with the SEC's worst field-goal shooting percentage in league games, shot 52.1 percent from the field.

The Tigers let Alabama shoot 54.7 percent last weekend - the Crimson Tide's highest percentage against a Division I team in five years.

Missouri's last three games are against Mississippi State and Texas A&M and at LSU. Haith isn't concerned about a lack of effort.

"I was happy with our guys," Haith said. "I thought they competed. Ryan Rosburg got 12 rebounds. We outrebounded them. I think we completed pretty hard tonight."

Georgia began the game averaging 28 free throws per game, but was 0 for 6 from the foul line in the first half. The Bulldogs missed the front end of three straight one-and-one chances before Nemanja Djurisic had two attempts hit hard off the rim.

Djurisic redeemed himself, though, by closing the first half with two 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater that made it 31-22.

"Yeah, I felt like we were right around there and then (Djurisic) hit those two 3s," Brown said. "That was kind of a momentum booster for them."

The Bulldogs finished the game 16 for 26 from the foul line.
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