Considering their relative stations in the SEC, no one was expecting a thing of beauty when Georgia and Auburn met Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum. But beastly as the contest was, the end result looked quite nice to the Bulldogs, who won their second conference game in a row, 57-49.
And while there were a lot of ghastly points throughout, Georgia was pretty proficient down the stretch. They doubled up the Tigers in the final 3:43, which started in a 43-43 tie.
“It was an ugly game, it really was,” Georgia coach Mark Fox admitted. “It was so physical and we missed enough free throws to make me go crazy. We fouled 3-point shooters twice. We did some things that just drive a coach nuts. But both teams were playing so hard, and when you’re playing that hard it’s hard to play pretty.”
Heading into the game’s final four minutes the poorly-officiated contest had been reduced to a free-throw contest, and neither opponent was very good at it. After Auburn’s Frankie Sullivan missed two of three fouls shots at the 4:52 mark, Georgia’s Mann followed by missing both of his 21 seconds later. When it was all said and done, the Tigers made just 55.6 percent of their free throws (15-of-27), while the Bulldogs were good for 57.7 (15-of-26).
But Georgia made the plays at crunch time. After Auburn’s Jordan Price missed a 3-pointer, the freshman Mann came up with the rebound and drove the length of the floor for a fast-break lay-up and 45-43 lead.
The Tigers’ Chris Denson, a graduate of Shaw High in Columbus, missed a short runner on the other end. Again, Mann came up with the rebound. And after the Bulldogs’ set up their offense, Mann fed Donte Williams in the post with a lob over the defense. Williams hauled in the pass and converted it into a three-point play and 48-43 lead with 2:59 to go.
“They were making a run in the second half, just like Coach said they would,” Mann said. “We just had to tighten things up and make some plays, me, Kentavious and the whole team. And that’s what we did.”
Sophomore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Bulldogs in scoring for the 18th time in 20 games. He had 20 points and added 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Mann, a freshman point guard from Alpharetta, didn’t start the game, but he finished. His 10 points came with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
The win was the third in the last four games for Georgia (9-11, 3-4 SEC), which will take some confidence and optimism with it to South Carolina on Saturday. The Gamecocks (12-8, 2-5) lost big to Florida Wednesday night.
“It feels good,” said Caldwell-Pope, who’s 17.4-points scoring average is second in the SEC. “We’re just climbing our way up the ladder. We’re just taking it game by game and trying to get better.”
It was the fifth consecutive loss for Auburn (8-12, 2-5). The Tigers got 13 points from Sullivan and Allen Payne and 12 from Denson but shot 28 percent for the game.
“We weren’t very good offensively and we weren’t very good defensively. You’re not going to win many games that way,” said Auburn coach Tony Barbee. “Georgia had some players make plays and our defensive intensity was low. We just backed off.”
Georgia and Auburn have now played 178 times in basketball, with the Bulldogs holding a slight 90-88 lead in the series.