In a touching tribute to their school’s football team, the Auburn Tigers lost by double digits to the Georgia Bulldogs on the hardwood on Wednesday night in Stegeman Coliseum. The Dawgs handled Auburn all game long, trailing for only 14 total seconds of action on their way to securing the 76-64 victory over the #22 team in the country to open SEC play.
It was the Terry Roberts show offensively for Georgia as the guard notched 26 points, the most for any Bulldog this season, on 8-16 shooting. Kario Oquendo added 17 big points while knocking down 3 of his 5 3-Point tries, and MA Moncrieffe played an enormous role in leading Georgia in both rebounds (9) and assists (3). Johni Broome did his best to keep his squad alive with a dominant performance for the Tigers, dropping 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Aside from an 11-point Auburn run over 3:17 of action to tie the game in the middle of the period, the first half was all Georgia. The early minutes of the game looked favorable for the Tigers who snagged 4 offensive rebounds on their first 4 possessions, but energetic second defensive efforts from the Dawgs made it difficult for Auburn to convert down low. The hustle shown from Moncrieffe on the glass throughout the game, although it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet in every instance, was a crucial component of his team’s success, as the 21 offensive rebounds recorded by Auburn could have risen much higher had it not been for the forward’s activity. Georgia led by as many as 11 points in the first half following a 10-0 run as Jabri Abdur-Rahim provided a nice spark off the bench. Although the Dawgs only shot 13-31 from the floor in the first half, they were able to build their 8-point halftime advantage in large part thanks to their defensive intensity. Georgia held the Tigers to only 30% shooting and 27% from beyond the arc in the period while snatching 7 steals. Auburn’s gameplan clearly included instruction to apply heavy ball pressure early in the game in an attempt to rattle a team that had for the most part never experienced SEC action, but the Georgia guards navigated with poise and used Auburn’s aggressiveness against them on numerous occasions to get layups inside. Georgia ended the half with two players in double figures (Roberts with 13 and Oquendo with 10) while Auburn did not have a double-digit scorer.
Auburn’s shooting woes continued in the second half, where their 3-Point shooting accuracy dropped from 3-11 in the first half to 3-17 in the second. The Tigers shot 14 more field goals than the Dawgs in the second half, but Georgia made its living at the foul line where the team attempted 24 free-throws to Auburn’s 5. Despite giving up 9 more offensive rebounds to go along with the previously recorded 12 from the first half, Georgia bested Auburn in the second-chance points category as they allowed only 6 to the Tigers. The first 12 minutes of the second half were a back-and-forth affair between the two teams as Georgia’s lead toggled between 4 and 9 points while neither team could mount the scoring run they needed to break the game open. A bucket down low from Broome followed by an emphatic transition dunk from Allen Flanigan cut the Bulldog lead to 4 and energized the many Auburn fans in the building as they hoped that their squad could string together a few more baskets to even the score. An unphased Justin Hill had other plans for the momentum of the contest, as he hit a big corner 3-Pointer to ignite the Georgia crowd and spark a 9-0 Bulldog scoring run over 1:27 of action to bring his team’s lead to 13 points at a score of 66-53 with 6:01 to play. Despite missing 6 of their 14 free-throw attempts down the stretch and not making a field goal until Terry Roberts’ layup with 8 seconds left when the game was all but over, Georgia did not allow Auburn to pull within closer than 9 points through their defensive force. The Tigers missed 13 consecutive 3-Point attempts to finish the game, which ultimately prevented them from gaining back any ground lost in the first half.
The statement win marks a huge achievement in the early stages of the Mike White era, as a victory at home against a ranked opponent to open conference play will likely do wonders for fan engagement moving forward. The first-year head coach has already matched Georgia’s SEC win total from last season in just his first game. In a post-game press conference, Coach White commented that the victory was a “great win for this team and our program, to get started off to a 1-0 start against a high-level program and a high-level team. [It was] obviously our best performance this season, hopefully something we can build upon. I thought we played really hard.”
The win on Wednesday brings the Dawgs to 11-3 on the season as they prepare to travel to Gainesville on Saturday to take on White’s former team and archrival Florida at 1:00 PM.