For the first time since Nov. 10, projected top-10 pick Michael Porter Jr. appeared in a game for the Missouri Tigers, as they lost 62-60 to the Georgia Bulldogs in the second round of the 2018 SEC tournament.
As one could imagine, there was some rust. That just comes with the territory after missing five months of game action—not to mention the fact that he had only played two minutes of college basketball. Ever.
Porter has finally recovered enough from back surgery to get back on the court. Unfortunately for him, he is being thrust right into the fire, as March Madness is upon us.
The Mizzou freshman was eased into action on Thursday, starting the game on the bench. But it didn't take long for him to check in, as he subbed in before three minutes had gone by in the game.
As Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports captured, the Tigers star entered to a standing ovation:
A minute into his return, Porter got on the board after getting out in transition with his brother, Jontay:
His entrance provided a spark and helped Mizzou start the game on a 10-0 run. The 6'10" freshman and the Tigers, though, would quickly cool off.
Porter went just 2-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-3 beyond the arc in the first half. Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided a range breakdown:
Overall, he had five points and four boards in his first half back. Mizzou was outscored as a team 33-14 over the final 14:06 of it.
Just like in the first half, Porter made his first shot (a layup) after the break. That happened to be part of a 15-6 run during the opening minutes of the half that tied the game. However, Georgia responded with an 8-0 run and never looked back.
Porter's second half was similar to his first half, although he hit a clutch triple with just under a minute to play to bring Mizzou within one point of Georgia. However, he was unable to follow that up with the go-ahead bucket the next time down the court—although he managed to haul in a key rebound with 11 seconds to play to give his team one more shot, which would not fall.
This essentially served as his first college game. And it was in a conference tournament. Asking a 19-year-old to play the role of hero under those circumstances is borderline unfair.
The final line for Porter: 12 points (5-of-17 from the floor, 2-of-6 from three-point range), eight rebounds and one assist.
It takes time for a player to get his legs back under him and play up to his abilities. Flirting with a double-double in this situation gave fans a glimpse of what he can do, even when his jumper wasn't falling.
Unfortunately for the Tigers (20-12), the loss to the Bulldogs prevents Porter from continuing to shake off the rust and gaining more valuable experience before the NCAA tournament. Assuming the Tigers receive an at-large bid, he will enter the Big Dance with just one-plus game under his belt and be asked to be on top of his game with the stakes as high as possible.