GAME NOTES: The Auburn Tigers will attempt to close out a two-game homestand at Auburn Arena unbeaten on Saturday afternoon, as they take on the Georgia Bulldogs in an SEC showdown.
After a 4-1 start in SEC play, Georgia has come back to Earth of late with back-to-back losses, falling at Kentucky on Jan. 25 (79-54) before losing to Vanderbilt on Wednesday (59-54). The Bulldogs still sit above .500 on the season at 10-9, but they are only 1-4 on the road.
Auburn had lost six straight to open up league play prior to its Thursday night clash with intrastate rival Alabama, which it won in convincing fashion, 74-55. The triumph allowed the Tigers to move back to .500 at 9-9, and every one of their victories this season has come on their home floor (9-3).
The all-time series is remarkably close after 178 meetings, with Georgia leading, 90-88, which includes a 57-49 home win in last season's matchup.
The Bulldogs fell behind by six at halftime of their contest with Vanderbilt earlier in the week and were never able to take the lead in the second stanza on their way to the six-point setback. In what was one of their worst offensive performances of the season, they shot just 27.8 percent from the field (including 4-of-23 from 3-point range) and only kept the game close by shooting 20-of-27 at the foul line. Charles Mann overcame the struggles of his teammates by scoring 20 points, while Brandon Morris chipped in 12 points.
After scoring just 54 points in each of its last two losses, Georgia's scoring offense has dipped to 69.4 ppg this season on 43.9 percent field goal shooting, which is just enough to support its scoring defense (68.6 ppg). Its modest offensive attack is hindered by a poor turnover margin (-2.3) and free- throw percentage (.661). Mann leads the way with 13.3 ppg while adding 23 steals, but he has more turnovers (62) than assists (52). Kenny Gaines (12.0 ppg) missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, leaving a larger scoring load to Nemanja Djurisic (10.1 ppg) and Morris (9.6 ppg).
The Tigers began their latest game red-hot, opening up a 12-0 run in the first five minutes and never looking back from there en route to dominating 19-point home victory. Not only did they outshoot Alabama from the field, 49 percent to 35.8 percent, but they also won the rebounding (37-30) and turnover (13-11) battles. Chris Denson shined with a career-high 32 points on 10-of-16 from the field and 11-of-14 at the foul line, while KT Harrell was also outstanding with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Scoring points has rarely been a problem for Auburn this season, as it nets 73.3 ppg on greater than 45 percent shooting from the floor, but its performance on the other end of the court has slowed it down, allowing 71.3 ppg. The squad is paced by the SEC's second- and third-leading scorers Denson (19.6 ppg) and Harrell (19.3 ppg). Both shoot greater than 47 percent from the field, with Harrell also showing excellence from beyond the arc (.413) and the free-throw line (.849). Tahj Shamsid-Deen is the next leading scorer with 8.7 ppg and takes good care of the basketball with 54 assists to just 24 turnovers.
Both teams have had their share of inconsistencies this season, which gives the edge to Auburn on its home floor trying to build momentum off its first SEC win of the season.
Game Date and Time