Last February, the Georgia Bulldogs welcomed Auburn to Stegeman Coliseum and came painfully close to a huge upset. With a new coach and a revamped roster to work with Wednesday, the Bulldogs got the job done.
Georgia held no. 22 Auburn in check for most of Wednesday’s action and finished strong on the way to a dominant 76-64 home victory. The win was a massive one to start SEC play for the Bulldogs, who started the conference slate 1-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.
Terry Roberts led all scorers with a season-high 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. Kario Oquendo followed with 17 of his own on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. On the Auburn side, Johnny Broome led the Tigers with 22 points.
Let’s dive into the four biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s big SEC win for the Bulldogs:
Winning on the glass
The big concern for Georgia (11-3, 1-0 SEC) going into Wednesday’s game was whether or not its forwards were up for the challenge of playing a team as big and physical as Auburn (11-3, 1-1 SEC) . It didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to prove not only that they were ready to compete on the glass, but that they were fully capable of winning their share of battles.
Georgia went toe to toe with Auburn in rebounding and actually overcame an 8-2 advantage on the boards in the first six minutes of action by answering with the game’s next eight rebounds. That back-and-forth nature set the stage for what was to come, as the game saw both teams fight for possessions and saw the Bulldogs get the ones they so desperately needed to fuel a win.
Auburn just edged Georgia 42-39 on the boards, but what the Bulldogs were able to do in the game’s waning minutes in extending possessions and ending Auburn’s secured the win.
Guards getting it done
Georgia’s guards have been a focal point of the offense throughout the season, but on Wednesday, the Bulldogs truly took it to another level to start SEC play.
Roberts and Oquendo set the tone offensively and were driving forces in Georgia not only building a first-half lead but maintaining it throughout the game’s final 20 minutes. The duo combined for 43 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field, and Roberts hit Georgia’s last two successful shots from the field. Robert’s 26 points tied a career high previously set by Bradley.
Georgia’s big men were crucial given Auburn’s advantage there, but without the play of Oquendo and Roberts, the Bulldogs aren’t able to score enough to get this win.
Holding Auburn at bay
Auburn was not a particularly strong offensive team going into Wednesday’s action, but the Tigers were looking for a change of pace against Georgia. The Bulldogs’ defense had something else in mind, and the result was a poor shooting night for the road squad.
Auburn never seemed to get into a rhythm offensively against Georgia, and while the Tigers did their best to muster much-needed offense in the game’s final three minutes, it was too little too late to avoid their first SEC loss of the season. Georgia held Auburn to 30.3% shooting from the field in the first half and kept that same energy in the second, allowing the Tigers to only hit 38.9% of their attempts in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Auburn had a strong start to the second half by hitting three of its first four shots from 3-point range, but in the end the Bulldogs clamped down and prevented the Tigers from hitting their next 13 shots from deep.
A big start to SEC play
Let’s be sure we give Georgia credit here: The Bulldogs played well during their non-conference slate and even nabbed a few impressive victories by beating Notre Dame and Chattanooga.
Wednesday’s win, however, was a whole other level.
Georgia took care of one of the teams considered a legitimate threat in the SEC this season and did not luck into this one by any means. The Bulldogs did not have to have an out-of-this-world outing by one player in particular, as the team strung together several strong performances in order to successfully defend Stegeman Coliseum.
There were definitely windows on Wednesday in which the Tigers could have mounted the comeback, but the Bulldogs did their part to prevent it from happening and to get some early momentum in conference play.
Deciding stretch: Auburn seemed to be back in the ballgame after a fastbreak layup by Allen Flanigan cut Georgia’s lead to four with just under eight minutes to go, but Georgia answered and did so with authority. Justin Hill drilled a wide-open 3-pointer on the next possession to keep the Tigers in check before Braelen Bridges waited patiently before going up and adding two more points on a layup.
By the time Auburn called timeout on the heels of a Terry Roberts fastbreak layup, the Dawgs were up 11 with no interest in letting up.
Standout stat: Auburn was the favorite entering Wednesday’s action, but Georgia led for the majority of the contest. In fact, the Tigers led for all of 14 seconds by the time the final buzzer sounded.
They said it: “WI knew we were capable of this. I don’t think a lot of people outside of here knew, but it just gives us a big boost going forward and helps our confidence actually going into the next one knowing that we were able to do this and just carry it out going forward. ” — Georgia forward MA Moncrieffe, who had 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the victory.
What’s next: Georgia returns to action on Saturday when the Bulldogs play at Florida, which was 7-6 going into tonight’s game against Texas A&M. The trip to Gainesville will be the first for Mike White since leaving Florida after seven seasons as head coach.