UGA Basketball

Georgia's scoring defense is the SEC's best but will receive test against Auburn's backcourt trio

Georgia's Juwan Parker (3) and Auburn's Mustapha Heron (5) go at it during last year's meeting at Stegeman Coliseum.
Georgia's Juwan Parker (3) and Auburn's Mustapha Heron (5) go at it during last year's meeting at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia Sports Communications

During Georgia's 61-60 win over LSU, the Bulldogs held star point guard Tremont Waters to only six points.

That is a significant stat, considering Waters entered the game averaging 16.9 points per game as the Tigers' top scoring threat. But the good looks at the basket were limited for Waters, as he ended the game 3-of-7 shooting from the field in 29 minutes.

While Georgia did an excellent job in locking up LSU's top perimeter player, it will have its hands full dealing with an Auburn backcourt trio that can fill up the hoop in a variety of ways. Auburn guards Bryce Brown (15.8 points per game), Mustapha Heron (15.1) and Jared Harper (12.4) have all proven to be exceptional scoring threats.

The three of them have helped lead Auburn to 85.7 points per game, which ranks first in the SEC and 15th nationally.

"Their perimeter guys are having terrific years," head coach Mark Fox said. "I think they're all double-figure scorers. They're all guys who can score in multiple of ways. They're not one-dimensional players. I think that's really important to recognize, so it is a challenge."

Fox noted that Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl has distributed the playing time between his guards evenly. Brown is the only one of the three who averages over 30 minutes per game at 31.7. Harper is at 28.8 minutes per game and Heron is at 26.5 minutes per game.

Therefore, there hasn't been a heavy need to rotate players in and out of games given the production Auburn is getting from Brown, Harper and Heron.

"They got three talented guys starting for them," senior guard Juwan Parker said. "You have to try their lessen their impact as much as you can. The challenge is don't let them get their average. You have to take the challenge and step up to it, and get the job done."

While Auburn has scored a bunch of points this season, Georgia has been one of the nation's top teams in scoring defense. The Bulldogs rank first in the SEC by holding teams to 65.1 points per game, which is an improvement by 5.3 points per game over last year's average. That mark ranks fourth out of all Power 5 programs and 28th out of every team across Division I college basketball.

Under Fox, Georgia has typically ranked near the top of the SEC in defensive categories prior to last year. The Bulldogs, facing some late-season injuries, slipped to finish the season 123rd in scoring defense by the end of the 2016-17 season. With a healthy and veteran roster, Georgia will hope to get another inspired defensive performance against an Auburn team that has scored over 80 points 12 times in 18 games.

"I think we have an older team," Fox said. "We have good mobility and size across our lineup. That allows us to switch things when we need to get some things covered up. For the most part we've played pretty mentally attached, too. It's probably a combination of all those things that have allowed us to have some level of success."

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