Georgia's defense led by 14 points and made five 3-pointers in the first half of Saturday's game against Auburn.
Yet the Bulldogs lost in what amounted to a 28-point swing in the second half.
The Tigers flipped the script on Georgia, defeating the Bulldogs 79-65 in front of a packet house at Auburn Arena. The final score indicated that it was a game Georgia was never much of a factor in.
That wasn't the case at all.
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Georgia's defense, which entered the day No. 1 in the SEC at allowing only 65.1 points per game, crumbled over the final 20 minutes of the game. After holding a 40-26 halftime lead, Auburn outscored Georgia 53-25 the rest of the way.
"Our defense collapsed to start the (second) half," Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. "The defense just collapsed. Our defense has been pretty consistent, but then we got caught up in the emotion of the building. We didn't play well offensively, and the combination of those two sunk us."
Georgia's defense did a good job containing the Auburn guards in the first period. Bryce Brown, Mustapha Heron and Jared Harper were held to seven combined points before halftime. When play resumed, all three players exploded. Heron and Brown hit 3-pointers, which was later followed by a Harper 3-pointer after a couple of free throws from Yante Maten.
At the 13:45 mark of the second half, Heron threw down a dunk to give Auburn its first lead at 43-42 since it took an early 2-0 advantage off a pair of free throws. From there, Auburn was able to cruise to victory.
Brown finished with 28 points, with 25 coming in the second half. Heron scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Harper posted 13 points.
Both guard Juwan Parker and forward Yante Maten said they were disappointed with what transpired in the second half. Parker said the Bulldogs weren't as intense in the second half as they were in the first.
As for why that was, Parker didn't have an answer.
"I don't know, we just got punched in the mouth and we didn't respond," Parker said.
But it wasn't just the defense that fell apart in the second half. Georgia's offense was unable to consistently feed Maten the ball. Maten faced double teams throughout the game, with Auburn defenders doing their part to block any lanes for entry passes. Maten was only able to put up seven shot attempts and made three. He finished with 17 points, thanks to going 11-of-12 shooting from the free-throw line.
"I did a poor job getting him the ball," Fox said. "They obviously had two guys on him in a man-to-man scheme. A guy in front and a guy behind. The other guys have to make a few plays. Juwan made some in the first half to keep them honest. In the second half, we didn't make those plays."
As for NCAA Tournament implications, Georgia is still very much in the mix following its loss to Auburn. The Tigers are ranked 17th nationally and entered Saturday as the RPI's No. 9 team. Georgia's metrics probably won't move much considering Auburn's resume and the fact the game was on the road.
Parker said Georgia entered the locker room confident in what it did through the first half. Then the second half began and the Bulldogs were stunned with repeated body blows from Auburn's offense. And the Auburn onslaught wasn't anything new. In its two previous wins before Saturday's over Georgia, the Tigers trailed by 10 against Mississippi and 11 against Mississippi State at the half before winning those games.
"To have the dam break on you is disappointing," Parker said.
Georgia's defense, which has been a strong suit all year, gave up over 70 points for only the fifth time in 18 games. This didn't seem like a possibility of having after the way the Bulldogs looked in the first half.
But once Auburn got going, Georgia failed to come up with an answer.
"We needed to get some stops," Maten said. "We needed to be in our coverages and weren't there. Something went wrong, we let a shooter get going and he started livening up the crowd. Then we let a dunk happen and it just progressively went downhill from there. A lot of that is mental, a lot of that is effort, too. We just didn't get it done when we needed to, so it comes down to execution."