With the 91-86 win over Auburn on The Plains, the Georgia Bulldogs (11-6, 4-6) are currently in the midst of their second conference win streak of the season; the first two-game span came with the victories over Ole Miss and Kentucky. Something about Kermit Davis’s team gets this Georgia bunch yearning for more the next time they take the court.
Since the Tigers dismantled UGA 95-77 in Athens back in January, Bruce Pearl’s team had won 3 of its last 4 league games. To say that Auburn is probably feeling a little shell shocked right now would be an understatement.
Georgia was the aggressor in this one from the opening tip. Tom Crean’s team had infectiously high energy from both the players on the court as well as those on the bench. The Dawgs were quicker to loose balls and they outworked the Tigers on the glass. Defensive rebounding has been an Achilles Heel for this team in SEC play, yet this evening Georgia yielded just 7 offensive boards to Auburn (which led to 14 second chance points). UGA’s success at securing Auburn’s misses enabled the Dawgs to get out in transition, which is where this team is typically most comfortable on offense.
In league contests, Auburn’s scoring defense ranked 11th entering tonight as Pearl’s team had been giving up nearly 79 a night. Honestly, it appeared as though the Tigers weren’t expecting much of a fight from Georgia by how lackadaisical they appeared defensively. Auburn’s second level defense was nonexistent and Georgia took advantage and punished the Tigers with 52 points in the paint. This was a stark contrast from the first time these two teams met when Auburn recorded 14 blocked shots as the Tiger defenders routinely rotated to provide help defense. The Dawgs had 6 players finish the game in double-figures, with Tye Fagan and Toumani Camara leading the way with 16 and 15, respectively (Camara also had 12 boards to notch the double-double).
Georgia showed a lot of poise down the stretch of this game. With a little over 10 minutes remaining, UGA had a 69-57 lead that would eventually be whittled down to a 6-point Georgia advantage with only 6 minutes left. However, the Dawgs did exactly what they needed to do to close this one out: they valued the basketball and made free throws. In the final 10 minutes of this contest, Tom Crean’s team committed just 1 turnover, which really limited Auburn’s extra scoring opportunities. Over the final 2 minutes of the game, the Dawgs knocked down 9 of 12 from the free throw line. Teams that don’t give the ball away and make opponents pay from the stripe typically hold onto leads, just as Georgia did this evening.
The Dawgs host 1-6 Vandy on Saturday, which gives Crean’s team a legit shot at moving into the middle of the conference standings. After Saturday, 4 of Georgia’s final 6 SEC games will come against teams that are currently ranked. If UGA is going to have a shot at surpassing last season’s win total of 5, this weekend’s game is a must-win.