ST. LOUIS — The Michael Porter Jr. comeback tour had a quick stop a couple of hours away from the Missouri campus.
The freshman made his return to the game on Thursday against Georgia, but the Tigers were eliminated 62-60 when guard Kassius Robertson missed an open 3-point shot with seconds to play.
The question remains — did the return of a player who had seen two minutes of playing time this season disrupt Mizzou offensively?
The numbers would say so.
Porter Jr. was 5-of-17 and Missouri shot 34.4 percent for the game.
“I think we’ll be fine because they got a chance to play with him,” said Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin. “I’m glad he actually got it out of the way.”
Porter Jr.’s next stop will be the NCAA Tournament. He missed all but those two minutes after hurting his back and requiring surgery. When he entered the game Thursday, the roar was thunderous with appreciation and expectation.
But while there were flashes of brilliance from a 6-foot-10 player who took six 3-point shots in the game, he struggled against what most consider the league’s best defense.
“In that kid’s defense, it’s hard to play your first couple of college games,” said Georgia coach Mark Fox.
Fox got his typical game from AP Player of the Year Yante Maten, who 21 points and 10 rebounds. A 12 seed, Georgia (18-14) will play fourth-seeded Kentucky on Friday.
“We’re just here to have fun and just win,” said Georgia guard Turtle Thomas.
With Missouri (20-12) out, the tournament loses its local draw and host team. But at least Porter got his feet wet. OK, maybe just his toes.
“It felt good to be back out there for sure,” he said. “But we played — to me — about as bad on offense as we’ve played all year.”
His brother might not agree. Jontay Porter led Mizzou with 20 points. But here’s a stat that shows how poorly the Tigers played on iffense — they had six assists.