Auburn was in need of some quick offense.
Trailing by 14 at the half to Georgia on Jan. 20, the Tigers didn't look much like the top-10 it has since become. Then again, its best player, junior guard Bryce Brown, spent the majority of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, which certainly contributed to the Bulldogs rolling to such a big lead.
The second half began and Auburn got quick 3 from Mustapha Heron to cut Georgia’s lead to 11. Not long after, Brown hit a 3-pointer, which sent the fans at Auburn Arena into a frenzy. From there, Brown, who scored only three points in the first half, caught fire and poured in 25 of his 28 points over the final 20 minutes in what would be a 79-65 Auburn victory.
Afterward, Brown, a Stone Mountain native who finished his high school career at Tucker, was asked if it meant anything to defeat his home-state school.
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“It was. To be honest, they didn’t even recruit me,” Brown said. “It means that much more. I try my best to stay within the system but, as well, to try and prove a point.”
To be fair, not many major programs recruited Brown. Brown was considered a three-star recruit in the class of 2015. The only in-state schools to offer him were Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State. He was actually committed to Charlotte before ending up at Auburn.
Auburn has reaped the rewards of landing the sleeper Brown proved to be. Not only has Brown surpassed expectations, but he has emerged as one of the favorites to win the SEC’s Player of the Year honor on what has become the conference’s best team.
Fox didn’t say much when asked if Georgia recruited, or at least knew about, Brown in high school.
“We watched him and, obviously, he’s at Auburn,” Fox said.
This season, Brown is fifth in the SEC in scoring at 16.6 points per game. In the earlier-season win over Georgia, Brown connected on five of his nine 3-point attempts. This season, Brown is shooting the 3-pointer at a career-best 41.5 percent clip.
After a down sophomore season, Brown said he started to see his game turn around after summer workouts. He credited his teammates for lifting his level of play up, too.
“Playing with these guys has given me the confidence in ability to do a lot on the court,” Brown said.
But Brown may not be able to suit up for Saturday’s rematch against Georgia. He is questionable with a shoulder injury suffered Wednesday against Texas A&M. Fox noted that with or without Brown, Auburn can shoot the 3-pointer incredibly well.
But there is no denying how much better, and dangerous, Auburn is as a team with Brown in the lineup.
“He’s a real big difference-maker,” Georgia forward Yante Maten said. “I think we had him pretty silent in the first half. He came out and made a 3, and got them rolling. He was that momentum-booster in the last game for them. I wish him a quick recovery. He’s a good player and he can definitely get their offense rolling if you let him get started.”