Yante Maten has been Georgia's go-to scorer all season long.
One of the early favorites for SEC Player of the Year, Maten is averaging 19.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He has been a big reason why the Bulldogs have won 11 of their first 15 games of the season, which includes three victories over top-50 opponents.
In Wednesday's 68-56 loss to Missouri, however, Maten was held to nine points and two rebounds. Since he scored double figures in every other game this season, the Bulldogs missed the kind of usual production they get out of their star big man.
But head coach Mark Fox is hopeful that the Missouri game will serve as an outlier as the season continues. With how well Maten has started the season, Fox is sure he will be back on track Saturday against South Carolina.
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"Yante was due for a stinker," Fox said. "He really was. He played so well all year. He looked emotionally tired. He just wasn't the guy we've seen all year. He obviously didn't play like that guy. But he needed more help around him also. A team loss, but certainly he didn't have one of his better nights. I think he'll be OK."
Maten's highlight against Missouri came in the second half. He got the ball on the baseline, dribbled under the goal and threw down a one-handed reverse dunk. He drew a foul on the play, which drew an excited shout. But that was the lone big play of the game for someone who has become accustomed to scoring at will against his opponents.
Maten was held in check partly due to how Missouri defended him. Forward Kevin Puryear was physical when defending Maten. When Maten was matched up on other players, they fronted him. The Missouri defense also did a good job of taking away passing lanes into the post.
Fox said the Bulldogs have done a good job of adjusting to how certain teams choose to defend Maten in other games this season. It wasn't able to do so against Missouri, which should serve as a learning experience for Fox's team.
"We obviously have played all year off of the schemes people have put on Yante," Fox said. "It's critical when those other plays open up we finish the plays, that we make the right decisions and finish plays. I don't think we did that very well the other night."
Maten scored 18 points in each game Georgia played against South Carolina a year ago. Fox said that while Maten didn't have his best game Wednesday, he should be just fine against the Gamecocks if he plays the way he has for most of the season.
"We don't need him to do anything spectacular. We just need Yante to be Yante," Fox said. "He is a very complete player. He can usually adapt to the kind of game that it is. If he has to score outside, he does. If he has to score inside, he does. He's become a very patient player as a senior. We just really need him to be himself. He has had to carry an enormous load for our team and that's a lot to bear every night."