It’s about time the Bulldogs fought back.
Georgia snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday night as they defeated the No. 13 Auburn Tigers 65-55 in front of a sold-out crowd at Stegeman Coliseum.
The Tigers, who made a Final Four run a year ago, were held to just 31.3 (21-of-67) percent shooting on the night and 15.4 percent (4-of-26) from beyond the arc.
After the final second ticked off the clock, the team ran over towards the student section and celebrated their big victory. It carried into the post-game press conference as well.
“We’re going to win some games,” Freshman guard Anthony Edwards said afterward. “Y’all just ride with us.”
Georgia was off to a hot start as they jumped out to a 22-14 lead in the first 12 minutes of the game. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds was the first Bulldog on the board as he nailed a 3-pointer to open it up.
Hammonds continued to play well in that span as he scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds. Anthony Edwards had a quick five points as he hit his first basket with 11:21 left, and less than 30 seconds later he nailed a 3-pointer to stretch Georgia’s lead to seven.
Auburn struggled in that stretch as they went without a field goal for just over six minutes, but they responded after the third media timeout. Auburn went on a 9-0 run taking the lead, but Edwards knocked down another long-range 3-pointer to give Georgia control.
Another made shot from beyond the arc by freshman Sahvir Wheeler followed by a layup gave Georgia an eight-point advantage with 1:16 left. They went into halftime leading 31-25 and shooting 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field. Hammonds led the team with ten points, followed by Edwards and Wheeler with eight each.
Auburn was shooting 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from the field as they were led by J’Von McCormick with 11 points and Austin Wiley with eight. The Tigers were shooting just under 10 percent (1-of-11) from the three-point line in the first half.
Wheeler came out getting the first basket of the second half on a dribble-drive laying it in over Wiley. Georgia was able to stretch their lead to double-digits, but it was immediately cut short as Auburn’s Samir Doughty picked up a pair of baskets inside the paint. At the 11:10 mark, Georgia led 41-35 headed into the media timeout with some momentum as Edwards had a slam dunk on a fast break.
A McCormick 3-pointer pulled Auburn with three, but Edwards added another layup pulling Georgia’s lead back up to five. Senior Tyree Crump pushed the lead to seven with a made jumper for his first points of the night.
With 7:43 left, Georgia led 47-42 as the Tigers still struggled to make shots. At that point, McCormick seemed to be the only thing working for Auburn as he led the Tigers with 21 points. Georgia came out of the media timeout with consecutive baskets from Hammonds and Wheeler to extend their lead to nine.
Doughty ended a three-and-half minute streak for Auburn without a field goal as he hit a 3-pointer coming out the final media timeout. Georgia led 54-50, but Hammonds made a free throw and Edwards’ 3-pointer pushed the lead back to eight.
The Tigers cut the lead to 58-53 with 1:03 left to play, but Camara put Georgia back up seven with a pair of free throws. Georgia got a crucial call as the refs alleged an inbounds pass went off Wheeler, but the review overturned the call.
Freshman Toumani Camara finished the game strong for the Bulldogs as he hit seven free throws in the final 59 seconds to push his points total into double digits. Auburn also had three key turnovers in the final 24 seconds that set Georgia up with those possessions to be fouled.
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by Edwards with 18, Hammonds and Wheeler with 13, and Camara with 12. Wheeler finished with a game-high 4 assists, which came in big moments.
Despite the double-digit win, Georgia shot 36.8 percent (21-of-57) from the field and 26 (7-of-27) percent from the three-point line.
“As far as building off of this win, we have to know what we did well. You know, statistically, it was not our best night, and we know that,” said Wheeler when asked about how Georgia could build off this win. “We know why we got the win. We held them to even lower percentages than we had. We fought. We competed every possession. We talked to each other like Coach Crean has been wanting in the past. “
“[We had] that communication [and] everyone stepping up to be a leader. We really did that tonight. If we can do that, I am sure our offense is going to come eventually. We will shoot the ball better, no doubt, [and] then we will be pretty hard to stop. This is a great building point. We are looking forward to Saturday.”
With the win, Georgia improves to 13-13 overall and 3-10 in league play. Auburn falls to 22-4 and 9-4 in the SEC.
This win marks the first over the Auburn Tigers since March of 2017. It also marks the second win over an AP Top 15 team this season, the last coming at No. 9 Memphis on Jan. 4. The last time the Bulldogs were able to defeat multiple top 15 teams in a season was during the 2003-04 season when they tallied three upsets.
“The fans were here and on their feet,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “The win is awesome, there’s no question about it and I’m happy for our team. Thee bottom line is that shows we’re building a program. We are going through growing pains and hard days. We are going through adversity, but you don’t get a program built if you lose momentum with your fans. They are staying with us, and I’m so thankful for that… To have everybody here like that supporting us on a Wednesday night means a lot. So thank you Dawg Nation, from the bottom of my heart and from all of this team.”
Georgia returns to action on Feb. 22 on the road against Vanderbilt at 6 p.m.
Here is the video from Tom Crean’s postgame press conference: