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by Charles Odum, AP

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — J.J. Frazier isn’t ready to assume a lopsided win over Missouri means Georgia is headed to the NCAA tournament.

Nemanja Djurisic scored 14 points and Georgia strengthened its NCAA tournament hopes with a runaway 68-44 win over Missouri on Saturday.

Georgia (19-9, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) has won three straight games, including road wins against Alabama and Mississippi, since back-to-back disappointing home losses to Auburn and South Carolina.

“We can’t celebrate too much about this win,” said Frazier, who had 10 points, five assists and three steals. “We gave away two games at home. We made it tough on ourselves. Our back was against the wall, but we’re fighting out of it.”

The Bulldogs, 5-3 on the road in conference games, needed to avoid a third straight home loss to one of the league’s worst teams. Georgia began the day with a No. 29 ranking in the NCAA RPI and plays host to No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday night.

Missouri (8-21, 2-14) couldn’t manage a second straight win after ending a 13-game losing streak by beating Florida 64-52 on Tuesday night. The Tigers, last in the SEC, trailed by double figures most of the game.

The Wildcats made only 14 of 49 shots from the field (28.6 percent). Missouri had worse shooting in only one other game this season, an 86-37 loss at Kentucky in which it made only 27.1 percent of its shots (16 of 59).

Missouri coach Kim Anderson said his players couldn’t match Georgia’s intensity.

“To their credit, (Georgia) came out today ready to play and it’s frustrating,” Anderson said. “In the first half especially, our front line really struggled to score. You can’t do that.”

Anderson said the Bulldogs “got every loose ball and every rebound that flew off.”

A 3-pointer by Djurisic gave Georgia an 18-8 lead. The Bulldogs led 30-18 following a 3 by Kenny Paul Geno, and they kept the lead in double figures the remainder of the game.

“We definitely made an emphasis that we wanted to come out and compete from the tip,” said forward Marcus Thornton.

Georgia led 41-23 at halftime and stretched the lead to 28 points at 55-27 on two straight baskets by Cameron Forte – a follow-up layup and a jam.

Following Forte’s jam, the Bulldogs kept the lead over 20 points despite going more than six minutes without scoring.

Forte had 10 points for Georgia. Thornton finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

TIP-INS

Missouri: A 3-pointer by Namon Wright gave the Tigers their only lead at 3-2. Wright, a freshman who had 28 points in the win over Florida, had 10 points. … Johnathan Williams also had 10 points despite making only 3 of 13 shots. … The Tigers were outrebounded 47-30.

Georgia: It was the largest margin of victory in a SEC game under coach Mark Fox. … The 1990 SEC championship team was recognized at halftime. Former coach Hugh Durham, who was welcomed with a long “Huuuugh!” from fans – returned with his players, including Litterial Green, Rod Cole and Neville Austin. Another star of the team, Alec Kessler, died in 2007 and was recently inducted posthumously into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

KENTUCKY IS COMING

Fox said undefeated Kentucky is “one of the great teams of all time” with a front line that is bigger than most NBA teams. Asked how he will prepare for the Wildcats, who beat the Bulldogs 69-58 on Feb. 3, Fox joked he may ask for help from Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

“I’ll call Bud over there and see if we can scrimmage the Hawks tomorrow,” Fox said.

HEALING

Georgia sophomore guard Juwan Parker played for the first time since missing 11 straight games with an Achilles injury. Parker, who started in 14 of 15 games before the injury, had one point and one assist in a brief late-game appearance.

UP NEXT

Missouri: Hosts Auburn on Tuesday night.

Georgia: Hosts No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday night.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Reese Holliday scored 24 points, including eight free throws and two key rebounds in the last 4:00 to help Missouri-Kansas City beat Grand Canyon 70-65 on Saturday night.

UMKC (13-17, 8-5 Western Athletic Conference) moves into second place in the standings, 3 1/2 games back of conference leader New Mexico State.

Sam Daly made a free throw to give Grand Canyon a 57-55 lead, but missed his second attempt and Holliday was fouled while pulling in the carom. Holliday made both free throws to tie it. Grand Canyon’s Daniel Alexander then missed a 3, and Holliday was again fouled while taking in the board and made another pair of free throws to give UMKC a 59-57 lead with 3:15 to play.

The Kangaroos made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch, including four from Holliday, to seal it.

DeWayne Russell scored 15 points to lead Grand Canyon (16-14, 7-6).

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Isaiah Jackson scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half as George Mason built an early advantage that it rode to a 78-50 victory over Saint Louis on Saturday night.

The Patriots (9-19, 4-12 Atlantic 10), who snapped a three-game losing streak, made 15 of 21 shots for 71.4 percent in the first half to take a 43-24 lead. They cooled off only a little in the second half and finished at 60.9 percent. They made 17 of 18 free throws.

Marquise Moore added 14 points and six assists, Jalen Jenkins 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and Shevon Thompson 10 points. Jenkins had his first double-double this season.

Davell Roby and Reggie Agbeko had 10 points apiece to lead the Billikens (11-18, 3-13), who have lost six of their last seven games.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Jarekious Bradley scored 28 points and Southeast Missouri State snapped a three-game losing skid heading into next week’s Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a convincing 89-65 win over Austin Peay Saturday.

SE Missouri (13-16, 7-9) claimed the final berth, the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament Thursday. The Redhawks will play the No. 5 seed in a first round game Wednesday in Nashville.

Chris Freeman gave Austin Peay the lead with 12:08 to go in the first half, 15-14, but SE Missouri went on a 9-0 run to make it 23-15 and by the time Bradley drilled 3-pointer with :42 left in the half, the Redhawks had a 14-point lead.

Bradley was 11 of 18 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from distance, and grabbed seven boards for SE Missouri.

Chris Horton scored 20 points and Freeman added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Austin Peay (8-22, 3-13).

CHICAGO (AP) — Christian Thomas tied his season-high with 21 points and added a career-high 12 rebounds to lead Loyola of Chicago past Missouri State 65-51 on Saturday.

Earl Peterson finished with 12 points for the Ramblers (18-12, 8-10), who opens the Missouri Valley Conference tourney in St. Louis on Friday against Indiana State. The win also gives Loyola of Chicago its most wins ever as a MVC member and its most since winning 10 in the Horizon League in 2006-07.

The Ramblers led 44-43 with 9:27 to play, but ripped off 10 of the next 12 points to push their lead to nine. The Bears got no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Austin Ruder scored 14 points to lead Missouri State (11-19, 5-13). The Bears play Southern Illinois in the opening round game of the MVC tournament on Thursday.

From left: John Bailey , Cornelia Ferguson and J.H. Junior Ferguson. (provided)

From left: John Bailey , Cornelia Ferguson and J.H. Junior Ferguson. (provided)

(Springfield) – Is it luck? Is it destiny? Whatever it is, the Fergusons have it.

Junior Ferguson of Raymondville was chosen as a finalist at Bailey Chevrolet in Willow Springs to go to Springfield Wednesday to have a 1 in 12 shot of winning a 2015 Chevy Cruze during the halftime of the Missouri State University Men’s basketball game against Bradley. Despite the odds, Ferguson’s name was pulled.

John Bailey, owner of Bailey Chevrolet, spoke about the win:

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The Fergusons registered at Bailey Chevrolet, and had their name drawn to be the finalist from the dealership. 11 other people from across the region also won the chance to win the car at Wednesday’s game at participating Chevrolet dealers.

The West Plains Lady Zizzers celebrated Senior Night at Wednesday's game. (ORN Photo)

The West Plains Lady Zizzers celebrated Senior Night at Wednesday’s game. (ORN Photo)

The West Plains Lady Zizzers defeated Hillcrest Wednesday for the Ozark Conference Championship.

Gary Lee has the update:

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FINAL

West Plains 65
Hillcrest 59

On Wednesday the Houston Lady Tigers defeated the Willow Springs Lady Bears.

Marty Spence has the wrap:

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FINAL

Houston 55
Willow Springs 52

The Cabool Bulldogs’ season came to an end during the semi-finals of the Class 2 District 9 tournament.

Brad McNew has the update:

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The final score was:

Cabool – 53
Plato – 69

by RB Fallstrom, AP

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Earlier this month, Vladimir Tarasenko became the youngest St. Louis Blues player in more than two decades to score 30 goals.

The 23-year-old Russian forward’s skill is known across the league.

“He has lots of skill,” said Pavel Datsyuk, the Detroit Red Wings forward and fellow countryman. “He’s a really nice person, he’s a talented guy and a hard worker, too, which is more important.”

Tarasenko was the 16th overall pick in 2010 and made it to the NHL during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He had 22 goals last season and was the Blues’ most potent offensive threat in their one-and-done playoff appearance against the Blackhawks last spring, getting four goals in six games.

This season, he’s a first-time All-Star and the player the opposition fears most.

“It took him a little while to adjust to the North American style,” said Buffalo forward and former teammate Chris Stewart. “But look at him now.”

Alexander Steen is one of the Blues’ best overall players, a tireless two-way standout. Tarasenko has the scoring touch.

“He’s extremely skilled and he’s got a heck of a shot,” Steen said. “That’s why he’s putting up the numbers.”

Tarasenko was tied with San Jose’s Joe Pavelski for fourth in the NHL with 31 goals, trailing only Steven Stamkos (32) and Rick Nash (37) and he’s scoring a point per game through 60 games. His plus-minus of plus-27 was also tied for fourth and he’s among the league leaders with five game-winning goals.

Tarasenko has two overtime goals and has been the Blues’ best player in the shootout with three goals on eight chances.

“He can take a wrist shot from the blue line in a split-second, no wind up or anything, and it gets on the goalie quicker than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Blues defenseman Barret Jackman said. “A goalie can’t take his eyes off him for a second, or even a defenseman.”

The previous Blues player to score 30 goals at age 23 was Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan in 1991-92. Hall of Famer Brett Hull’s career skyrocketed at age 25 in 1989-90 when he racked up 72, 86 and 70 goals over a three-season span.

Shanahan finished with 33 goals in 1991-92. Without making any specific predictions, Tarasenko is shooting much higher.

“The year is not over yet,” he said. “Things are going good right now and I’ll try to keep it up every game.”

The Blues have yet to use Tarasenko at all times during the game. Coach Ken Hitchcock doesn’t use him to kill penalties, preferring to save the legs for offense.

Tarasenko’s signature move is a quick fake to the left that creates space to shoot. Hitchcock stresses the two-way aspect, and anticipates as Tarasenko matures, he’ll play 20 minutes per game instead of 17.

“When he’s checking well and the line is checking well, that’s when they get all of their offense,” Hitchcock said. “When that line checks, they are really dominant.”

Becoming more comfortable with the language and cultural differences aided Tarasenko’s take off. All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was Tarasenko’s first roommate on the road and can relate to the transition after playing in Finland during the lockout.

“He was very self-conscious about his language and English, but in actuality it was great,” Shattenkirk said. “We’d tell him, `You’re fine. You can order in a restaurant perfectly. Don’t stress it.’”

Tarasenko said the situation has improved, but added there’s plenty of room for growth.

“Sure, I feel more confidence right now. It’s way better right now,” Tarasenko said. “It’s hard, still.”

The Blues picked another forward, Jaden Schwartz, two spots before grabbing Tarasenko. The speedy Schwartz also has been a find with 46 points, a plus-16 rating and four game-winners.