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COLUMBIA, Mo. – Despite losing its third consecutive game to open conference play, Georgia may have found another offensive weapon in Vincent Williams.
The only player in his fourth year with the Bulldogs, Williams scored a career-high 23 points and tied a career high with four rebounds Wednesday night in a 79-62 loss to No. 17 Missouri.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 points for the Bulldogs, who never led in the game.
"He knows what we're supposed to do, how we're supposed to function," coach Mark Fox said. "He's not probably as vocal as we want him to be, but he's a good example and tonight I thought he played with great heart and was again a very good example for our players."
Caldwell-Pope led Georgia (6-10, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) in scoring in all but one of the team's first 15 games and is its only player to average in double figures. But Williams scored 13 points in the first half, only needing one more to tie his career high set Nov. 19 against then-No. 1 Indiana.
Asked if Williams was in the scouting report, Missouri coach Frank Haith said, "Nah, but obviously he played pretty well."
Coming off the bench in both halves, Williams finally got it with a pull-up jumper with 13:04 remaining. He was 7 of 10 from the field, including 3 for 4 from behind the arc, and converted all six of his free throws.
"Some nights they fall, some night they don't," said Williams, who averaged 4.1 points per game entering the game. "Tonight, it was just falling for me."
The night started well enough for the Bulldogs and for Williams, who found Donte' Williams (no relation) in the lane through Missouri defenders for an emphatic two-handed dunk 2:45 into the game to tie the score at 2. But the Tigers' Stefan Jankovic countered with hit a 3-pointer, and Georgia couldn't force a tie the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs made 10 of their 20 shots from the field in the first half, but turned the ball over eight times and gave up nine offensive rebounds, which Missouri used to take 13 more shots, converting 15 of their 33 chances from the field to take a 38-30 halftime lead.
"They have very balanced scoring," Fox said. "I thought their bigs, (Alex) Oriakhi hurt us on the glass. I don't know how many offensive rebounds he had, but we knew the rebounding was going to be an issue."
Earnest Ross scored 15 points while surviving two spills, helping Missouri bounce back from its season-low 49 points at Mississippi on Saturday. Oriakhi had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Tigers (13-3, 2-1). Their second game without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who has a sprained right knee, was a major improvement for a team that's 10-0 at home this season and 26-1 at Mizzou Arena in two seasons under Haith.
"In some ways, it makes them more difficult to defend when he's not in the game," Fox said of Bowers. "I know he's a terrific player, but he doesn't shoot the 3 quite as much as some of these other guys."
Ross was held to three points at Mississippi while missing six of seven shots, Oriakhi had four points and six rebounds and Missouri was 2 for 18 from 3-point range. The Tigers were 9 for 22 against Georgia, getting three apiece from Ross and Jabari Brown, who added 15 points.
Ross missed the last 2:52 of the first half after injuring his left leg. Then he landed hard on his hip after getting fouled under the basket with just under 6 minutes to go, making one of two free throws not long before limping to the bench for good.
Haith juggled his lineup, with forwards Tony Criswell and Jankovic each getting their first start in place of Ross and Keion Bell. Jankovic scored Missouri's first five points but lasted just 4 minutes in the half after drawing three fouls, the last just 37 seconds after re-entering.
Ross scored a career-high 30 points for Auburn against Georgia on Feb. 5, 2011.
The Tigers hit five 3-pointers and twice led by 14 points in the first half, but were outscored 8-2 over the last 3½ minutes as Georgia shaved the gap to eight points at halftime.
Six players were whistled for at least two fouls in the first half, four from Missouri.
Georgia is in a stretch of three Top 25 opponents in five games that started with a 33-point loss at Florida Jan. 9 and ends with Florida, now No. 10, at home on Jan. 23. The Bulldogs have lost three straight but shot 46 percent.
Williams thinks the team can rebound.
"I see us heading pretty far, we'll be fine," he said. "Just a tough start; we'll be fine."