For Auburn, it was no Bryce Brown, no problem against Georgia on Saturday.
The Tigers’ top scorer sat out with a shoulder injury, but it didn’t matter much. Auburn (22-3, 10-2) rode a strong effort from Jared Harper, whose 24 points powered Auburn to a 78-61 road victory. The win is the Tigers’ fifth win in their last six games.
Auburn’s 15-point victory was fueled in large part by its 3-point shooting. Even in stretches where the Bulldogs’ defense limited them, the Tigers hit shots from deep to keep control. The Tigers finished off Georgia with about seven minutes to go due in large part to consecutive 3-pointers from Chuma Okeke and Malik Dunbar.
Auburn ultimately shot 44 percent from behind the line.
Georgia (13-11, 4-8) pushed Auburn through much of the first half, eventually drawing within two points with just over two minutes before the break. That’s when the Tigers answered accordingly, setting off a 7-0 run to take a 40-31 halftime lead.
The scoring streak was highlighted by a stolen in-bound pass by Harper, who drove down the rest of the court uncontested and delivered an easy layup with 54 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs threatened the Tigers at times in the second half but never came as close as they did before the break.
Four who mattered
Jared Harper: Harper was huge for Auburn in its 12th conference victory of the season. His finest moment may have come in the opening two minutes of the second half, when he faked out a would-be Georgia defender behind the arc. The move left Harper with plenty of room, and he made the Bulldog pay by hitting the 3. His 24 points were his highest since Auburn’s win over Missouri on Jan. 24.
Mustapha Heron: Herron was the de facto leading scorer for Auburn with Brown’s absence, and he didn’t disappoint. Heron was a crucial part of the Tigers effort as well, finishing the game with 8-of-14 shooting from the field with 19 total points.
Desean Murray: Georgia had the size advantage over Auburn, but it didn’t matter given the play of Tigers like Murray. Murray was one of the Auburn players who grabbed rebound after rebound, which helped the Tigers end the game with 15 second-half points. Murray finished with a game-high seven rebounds.
Yante Maten: Georgia remained in contention until about seven minutes to go in the game, and that was in large part due to Maten’s play. The senior was the driving force in what was likely Georgia’s final shot at staying in NCAA Tournament contention. He finished with 20 points.
Auburn returns to the court Wednesday when they host No. 24 Kentucky. It will be the first time the Tigers and the Wildcats have squared off this season.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports