UGA falls short against Auburn

Georgia’s postseason fate may well have been decided here at Auburn on Saturday, and it wasn’t positive.

The Bulldogs lost to the Tigers 74-67 at Auburn Arena on Saturday. For perspective, Auburn (10-9, 2-6 SEC) had won just one of its previous 17 SEC games.

It was the third loss in a row for Georgia (10-10, 4-4) and second in what has been a very bad week. It followed a 59-54 defeat at home by an undermanned Vanderbilt squad on Wednesday

At a time when the Bulldogs were expected to make hay with their schedule, they instead went backward. Georgia’s RPI, which was 128 to begin the week, is about to plummet.

The loss came despite the return of shooting guard Kenny Gaines. The team’s second-leading scorer had missed the previous two games with a bruised thigh. Gaines scored just nine but his presence seemed to invigorate the Bulldogs’ offense, which had scored 54 points in the previous two games.

But they were victmized on the defensive end. The Tigers shot 46.5 percent from the field and made 27 of their 34 fouls shots (79.4 percent). Chris Denson, a senior from Columbus, had 18 points to lead five Auburn scorers in double figures.

“The difference ended up being the free-throw line,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We sent them there way too much and they shot their free throws well. We didn’t shoot ours as well and we didn’t get there as much.”

The Bulldogs were 19-of-28 (67.9 percent) from the foul line. Charles Mann led Georgia with 18 and Nemi Djurisic added 11.

Fox was definitely thinking outside the box with his starting lineup. He gave the nod to redshirt freshman Houston Kessler over senior Donte Williams at one of the two post positions. Kessler not only has never started in his career, but had never scored a point. His stats coming into Saturday’s game: seven games played, 2.1 minutes per game, 0-2 shooting, 4 rebounds.

“I wasn’t pleased our upperclassmen’s response the other day,” Fox said of starting Kessler. “So I put Houston in there and he did a nice job while he was in there.”

The shooting problems that plagued Georgia in the loss to Vanderbilt returned in the first half against Auburn. The Bulldogs made their first two 3-point attempts of the game, then didn’t make another for the rest of the half. They rallied from inside the arc to shoot 33 percent and trail 33-25 at halftime.

The Bulldogs have five days to regroup. They don’t play again until Thursday night when LSU comes to Athens.

“We’ll be fine,” Mann said. “We’ll bounce back. We faced adversity earlier in the season, so we’ll be fine. We’ll find a way to bounce back.”