Auburn over matched by Georgia's Experience in SEC Opener
Freshman Austin Wiley (50) scored 11 points in Auburn's 96-84 loss to Georgia, his first career double-digit scoring game. (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Dakota Sumpter)
Auburn finished the first half strong, and even had momentum deep into the second half. However, Georgia grabbed a lead with 6:21 thanks to a Yante Maten layup, and never looked back. Auburn fell to Georgia 96-84 on Thursday night to open conference play. The two key players to watch for Georgia were Maten, as well JJ Frazier, and they were every bit as powerful as advertised. Both players entered Thursday’s conference opener averaging double-digit scoring, and they continued their success into SEC play. Maten ended the evening with 31 points, while Frazier added 27. Georgia, like Auburn, had four players end in double figures, with Jordan Harris picking up 12, and Juwan Parker had 10. “I don’t think I developed a good enough game plan to get the ball out of their hands and to get them covered.” Head Coach Bruce Pearl said after the game of Maten and Frazier, “Our kids certainly weren’t able to do it with what we presented them. Unfortunately, what happens, is that you get exposed.” Despite experience being a major factor in the decision, Auburn’s younger players kept their consistency by contributing. Mustapha Heron led the team with 19 points, which is his 13th straight game of double-digit scoring. Heron turned it up in the second half, which is not unusual. He ended the first half with 8 points and scored 11 rather quickly in the second half. Auburn did a great job of sharing the wealth in the first half, as 10 players scored at least a point. Heron, Austin Wiley, and TJ Lang each had 8, with Anfernee McLemore led in rebounds with 5. All-in-all, Auburn had four players finish in double-figures: Danjel Purifoy (13), Wiley (11), Jared Harper (10) to go along with Heron’s 19. Offensively, the Tigers played well enough to win. What was the deciding factor according to Pearl? “On the perimeter, Frazier did whatever he wanted to do. We did a good job guarding the three-ball (Georgia shot 31%, 5-15 from beyond the arc) but we did a terrible job at guarding the lane. It was a disappointing loss. That is why they are picked 5th (in the SEC), and we are not.” Pearl says that with his team being rather young, he hopes that this loss will be a lesson on how to play in the SEC. The great thing about playing Georgia this early is that Pearl and the Tigers get a chance to face the Bulldogs again on March 1st in Athens. Auburn moves to 10-3, 0-1 in SEC play, and looks to bounce back Wednesday on the road in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 P.M. inside Memorial Gymnasium.