UGA Basketball

Auburn rallies from early deficit to rout Georgia on home floor

Georgia head coach Mark Fox.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox. AP

Auburn entered the year predicted to finish ninth in the SEC.

By the time Saturday's 79-65 victory over Georgia ended, there is a legitimate case that the Tigers have turned into the top team in a conference loaded with NCAA Tournament contenders.

Even though it fell behind 40-24 late in the first half, the Tigers were able to launch a fierce rally and knock off the Bulldogs at Auburn Arena. The final score indicated a rout, yet the Bulldogs were in control of the game for a full 20 minutes.

Auburn (17-2, 5-1 SEC) opened the second half on a 31-4 run and never looked back. For Georgia (12-6, 3-4), it's the program's third loss in four games.

Four who mattered

Auburn guard Bryce Brown: Brown scored 25 of his 28 points in the second half to help spark the Tigers to a big win at home.

Auburn guard Mustapha Heron: Heron, held scoreless at the break, totaled 14 second-half points to lead Auburn to a comeback victory.

Georgia forward Yante Maten: Maten did his best to get Georgia back into the game once it fell behind in the second half. Maten scored 17 points, which included going 11-of-12 shoooting at the free-throw line.

Georgia guard Juwan Parker: Parker proved to be Georgia's other offensive weapon and stepped up with some big shots in the first half. Parker finished with 16 points.

Turning point

For as good of a job that Georgia did defensively in the first half, it could not do much about Auburn catching fire in the second half. Once Heron opened the final period with a 3-pointer, Auburn had a hard time missing from the field.

Observations

Cold and hot shooting: Since Georgia entered the game holding a size advantage in the interior, it was on Auburn to sink some shots from the perimeter. In the first half, the Tigers had a few open looks from deep but didn't convert. Georgia also did a good job contesting many of those shots. In the second half, it was a different story. Out of the break, Heron hit a 3-pointer and then the shots began to fall.

Auburn's trio gets going: In the first half, Heron, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combined for only seven points. But part of that was due to Heron picking up two early fouls that put him on the bench for 14 minutes of the opening period. In the second half, the three players proved they have great chemistry when all of them are available on the floor together. With each of them averaging double figures this season, Brown (28), Herron (14) and Harper (13) all achieved this feat once again.

Auburn's pressure defense: With Heron out, Auburn's defense wasn't nearly as effective in the first half. With Heron rejoining his teammates on the floor, Auburn's backcourt pressured Georgia's guards into some early mistakes in the second half. The Tigers did a good job of preventing the ball from going into Maten, which disjointed the Georgia offense. After shooting 56 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs were 25 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes.

Worth mentioning

First-half explosion: In what turned into an Auburn win, Georgia actually controlled the first 20 minutes of the game. The Bulldogs led 40-26 at halftime and saw five 3-pointers fall through the basket. This was only the fourth time all year Georgia scored 40 in the first half, with the other games being against Bryant (40), Winthrop (40) and Alabama (44).

Second consecutive start: With Auburn being a guard-oriented team, Teshaun Hightower earned his second consecutive start in a row. Before the game, head coach Mark Fox said Hightower earned the previous game's start against LSU for matchup reasons. Hightower ended Saturday's game against Auburn with three points.

What's next?

Georgia will return home and host Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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