Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton
Photo: Compton

Georgia can’t keep up with Auburn in road loss

The No. 11-ranked Tigers (12-3, 1-1 SEC) ran away from the Bulldogs (9-6, 1-2) by a 93-78 count in front of a sellout crowd at Auburn Arena on Saturday.

The Tigers' celebrated backcourt of Peach State products Jared Harper (Mableton) and Bryce Brown (Stone Mountain) lived up to their billing.

Harper led Auburn with 22 points and seven assists, and Harper added 15 points as the Tigers improved to 24-1 at home since the start of the 2017-18 season.

Georgia forward Nicolas Claxton scored 15 points, blocked six shots and pulled down three rebounds. William "Turtle" Jackson had a season-high 16 points to pace the UGA scorers. 

Georgia struggled to stay within 10 points throughout the second half, the Tigers keeping the Bulldogs at arm's length with 3-point shooting and drives to the basket, leading by as many as 18.

“I never felt being down 10 like we were out of it, especially with the open looks we were getting,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “A game like this, it comes down to the hustle points. They scored six more points off turnovers. They scored seven more points off second-chance, and when you are playing against a team that, you can’t do that.”

Auburn's win knots up the all-time series (94-94), but the Tigers have won the past three meetings. 

Crean traveled to Auburn for Saturday’s game separately, having gone to Michigan to spend time with his ailing mother Friday.

The Bulldogs were hoping to build momentum after an 82-63 home win over Vanderbilt on Wednesday.

The Tigers, however, had plenty of reason for motivation after suffering an 82-67 setback at unranked Ole Miss last Wednesday.

Auburn got right to it, holding a 48-38 lead after a fast and furious first half.

“Tom Crean has done a terrific job, they play with a confidence, an energy and a passion,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “I can tell you as a coach their stuff is hard to guard, and he’s got them believing, so we are pleased with the win.”

Georgia handled the Tigers’ opening flurry — unlike in its SEC-opening 96-50 loss at Tennessee on Jan. 5 — but was unable to keep pace with Bruce Pearl’s uptempo Tigers.

Auburn jumped to leads of 6-0, 13-4 and was up 20-14 when the Bulldogs showed their first sign of SEC road resilience.

Turtle Jackson made a 3-point shot that ignited a 8-0 run capped by a Jordan Harris trey to put Georgia up 22-0.

The Bulldogs were still leading 28-24 at the 9:39 mark before Brown scored back-to-back buckets for Auburn.

Brown, who leads the Tigers in scoring (15.9 points per game) revved up the arena and his teammates with his instant offense, spurring an 11-2 run.

Georgia’s guards were seemingly a step behind on both ends of the court, and the Bulldogs quickly got out of sync, going 3-of-12 from the floor as Auburn built the 10-point halftime margin.

Georgia plays host to the Tigers on Feb. 27, but next up for the Bulldogs is a 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN) game Tuesday at Stegeman Coliseum against No. 18-ranked Kentucky.

The Bulldogs are 7-1 in home games this season, and the battle with Coach John Calipari’s Wildcats will mark the first of six consecutive home sellouts. The next available game with tickets remaining is on Feb. 20 against No. 14 Mississippi State.

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