Bulldogs get revenge with wire-to-wire win over Auburn

Credit: SEC

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Georgia Bulldogs never trailed, and led by as many as 15 points, on the way to a 91-86 victory at Auburn Arena.

Credit: SEC

By all accounts, the same two teams played for Auburn and Georgia on Wednesday that played 20 days ago in Athens. But this game looked decidedly different as the Bulldogs never trailed and led by as many as 15 points on the way to a 91-86 victory at Auburn Arena.

The Georgia victory avenged a 95-77 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 13 in Athens. The Bulldogs had six players score in double figures as they shot 49% from the field, 44% from 3-point range and made most of their free throws down the stretch as Auburn cut in half what had been a 10-point Georgia with one minute to play.

“They believed they were going to win,” coach Tom Crean said of his team. “That sounds maybe cliché-ish, but they came in focused on winning. We had very good energy and they were very locked in. It was as detailed of a game as we’ve played as far as doing what we wanted to do.”

With the win, the Bulldogs (11-6, 4-6 SEC) split their series with Auburn for the second consecutive season and come home to host Vanderbilt (5-8, 1-6 SEC) on Saturday at 1 p.m. (SEC Network). Georgia has doubled the number of SEC road wins it had all last season.

It was the seventh time this season Georgia has scored 80 or more points and third time over 90. It was the 14th time in Crean’s three seasons the Bulldogs have reached 90-point plateau. You have to go back 432 games — or to the 2007-08 season — to count 14 games of 90 or more points at Georgia prior to Crean’s arrival.

And it was balanced scoring.

Tye Fagan led Georgia scorers with 16 points, 14 of which he scored in 4-1/2 combined minutes to start the game and early in the second half. But it was Sahvir Wheeler, with 13 points, seven assists and three steals, who was named the SEC Network’s player of the game. He outplayed Auburn’s Sharife Cooper for most of the game, was instrumental in inbounding the basketball during critical final minutes and basically kept the offense in synch while playing a team-high 32 minutes.

“We don’t win without him,” Crean said. “I told the guys, ‘this is how we’re built.’ We had six guys in double figures and Andrew Garcia had nine. We don’t have that one guy that’s carrying your scoring every night, but you do have to have somebody who’s setting the table every night and Sahvir does that.”

Toumani Camara contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs, P.J. Horne added 13 points, K.D. Johnson had 12 and Justin Kier 11.

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Georgia Bulldogs guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) goes up for a shot as he is defended by Auburn Tigers forward Javon Frankin (4) Tuesday, Feb. 2, 20201, at Auburn Arena in Auburn. Georgia won 91-86. (Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics)

Credit: AU Athletics

Georgia Bulldogs guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) goes up for a shot as he is defended by Auburn Tigers forward Javon Frankin (4) Tuesday, Feb. 2, 20201, at Auburn Arena in Auburn. Georgia won 91-86. (Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics)

Credit: AU Athletics

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Bulldogs guard Sahvir Wheeler (2) goes up for a shot as he is defended by Auburn Tigers forward Javon Frankin (4) Tuesday, Feb. 2, 20201, at Auburn Arena in Auburn. Georgia won 91-86. (Shanna Lockwood/AU Athletics)

Credit: AU Athletics

Credit: AU Athletics

Cooper, who had 28 in Athens, finished with 19 points and eight assists, but most of his points came from the foul line in the closing minutes of the game.

The Tigers (10-9, 4-6) have dropped three of their last five games. Their leading scorer was another Georgia native, Jaylin Williams, who had 21. Auburn was held to 29.6% shooting on 27 3-point attempts.

“We just understood what we needed to do this time,” Fagan said. “The first game wasn’t our best game against them. They came out and hit us first and we just never recovered. But tonight we knew what we needed to do, which was to gang-rebound, move the ball, get some cuts and make some easy baskets.”

This time, Georgia was the team that came out hot, shooting to a 10-2 and making two 3-pointers in the first 2:22 of play. Three times the Bulldogs built up 10-point leads. They executed perfectly in the final five seconds to a get a bucket and a stop for a 39-30 halftime lead. Georgia improves to 9-0 this season when leading at the half.

The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 15 points, 69-54, in the first 10 minutes of the second half and had a chance to extend it further when Garcia was called for a double-dribble after shaking a defender to get wide open underneath the basket.

Auburn, which had orchestrated a 22-3 second-half run in Athens, used a quick 7-0 spurt to get back within single digits and then got to within 71-65 with 6:06 to play.

But Horne followed Garcia’s missed layup with a thunderous follow-dunk that sent the Georgia bench into an impromptu rave on the sideline. Auburn missed a 3 on the other end and Johnson sliced through Auburn’s defense with a driving layup to push the lead back to 10.

The Bulldogs kept the Tigers at arm’s length the rest of the way. Georgia was up 10 with 49 seconds to play, but Auburn kept pressing and fouling to extend the game. The five-point final margin was the smallest it had been since the 15:13 mark.

“Disappointing loss,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “We had an opportunity to sweep Georgia for only the fourth time in 37 years. Since I got here, we’ve done it twice, had a chance to do it three out of the last four years. The reason why it’s not been done very often is it’s not easy to do. It’s hard.”