NASHVILLE — Dru Smith made two free throws with 15.2 seconds left, and the Missouri Tigers held off Georgia 73-70 Thursday night to advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Seventh-seeded Missouri (16-8) will play eighth-ranked Arkansas on Friday night.
The Tigers led 62-50 and nearly blew that lead after failing to make a field goal after Jeremiah Tilmon's layup with 6:24 remaining. They missed their final six shots but made all nine free throws within the final five minutes.
Xavier Pinson added 17, Kobe Brown had 16 points for Missouri and Tilmon finished with 10.
No. 10 seed Georgia (14-12) lost its third straight. The Bulldogs trailed 69-67 with 19.8 seconds remaining when Toumani Camara went to the free throw line and missed both attempts.
Smith hit his free throws, then Pinson added two more for the final margin.
Sophomore Sahvir Wheeler led Georgia with his eighth double-double of the season, tallying 14 points and 13 assists. Wheeler’s 13 assists set a new SEC Tournament single-game record, breaking the previous top mark of 12 held by three players. Fellow sophomore Toumani Camara also earned his eighth double-double of the year with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while freshman K.D. Johnson pitched in with 12 points.
For the game, the Bulldogs shot 43.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
“I’m proud of their effort,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “Our guys battled extremely hard. They never flinched when we got down. It was a highly contested game. The lane was hard to come by. It was hard to get things in that lane, but our guys kept working to figure it out. We had an opportunity at the end to tie it, but we just didn’t get it.”
Pinson beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to trim Missouri's deficit to 33-32 after a first half where both teams went through scoring droughts longer than five minutes. Georgia led by as much as 33-27 after making six straight shots before Pinson's shot.
Georgia: The Bulldogs were the only SEC team not to miss a game due to COVID or weather issues. But they cost themselves in this game going 10 of 16 at the free throw line. They only had one more turnover than Missouri but were outscored 19-9 off those mistakes.
Missouri: The Tigers needed this victory to burnish their seeding resume after being one of only nine teams with seven Quad 1 victories. Now they are a win away from playing in the semifinals of this tournament for the first time, which would be a bigger boost for the NCAA Tournament.