Auburn overcome a couple periods of cold shooting and the absence of their best player in getting a key road win at Georgia. The Tigers got 43 combined points from Jared Harper and Mustapha Heron as they beat the Bulldogs 78-61 to improve to 10-2 in the SEC.
Without Bryce Brown in the starting lineup due to a shoulder injury sustained against Texas A&M, Auburn needed one of its other offensive stars to pick up the slack. Enter the smallest guy on the floor. The first ten minutes of the game turned into the Jared Harper show, as the Tiger point guard scored 12 points on 4-6 shooting. At the under-twelve media timeout, Auburn led 19-15, with Harper’s 12 pacing the way.
The Tigers continued to surgically build the lead, with Mustapha Heron’s jumper and Anfernee McLemore’s dunk to open up a 26-16 lead with eight minutes to go in the opening half forced Georgia to take a timeout to regroup.
Regroup they did. The Bulldogs cut into that ten-point lead and trimmed it to just three points on a Tyree Crump three with 3:50 left until halftime, and Auburn led 31-28 at the final break of the half. However, it was Auburn’s turn to bow up, and they played much better defense down the stretch of the half, getting a couple steals, two buckets from Heron, and it was enough to scratch together a 7-0 run that left the Tigers up 40-31 at the break.
Auburn started the second half with a three from Harper to open up a 43-33 lead, but the Tigers missed five free throws on two trips, allowing Georgia to stay within striking distance. The missed foul shots were part of a scoreless stretch that lasted greater than five minutes, but Auburn finally found the range and opened up a 53-43 lead thanks to Heron’s three with 11:30 to play.
The Tigers kept the lead hovering around double-digits thanks to a barrage of three-pointers from Heron, Chuma Okeke, Davion Mitchell, and Malik Dunbar, and at the six-minute mark, Georgia’s chances to make a comeback were dwindling as Auburn led 67-51. Jared Harper’s long three and Mustapha Heron’s dunk to put the Tigers on top 72-56 as we crossed the three-minute mark got the Auburn bench on its feet and maybe put the lid on a road win. The Tigers finished it up in the final moments to put a cap on a 78-61 victory.
Jared Harper led all scorers with 24 points, including 4-7 from the three-point line. Mustapha Heron added 19, and the Tigers got an even scoring effort from the rest of the lineup after that. Georgia got 20 points from Yante Maten, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Auburn frustrated the Bulldogs into 13 turnovers that led to 25 points.
The Tigers will return home after splitting their two games this week and await the Kentucky Wildcats this Wednesday at 8 pm CST on ESPN2. Auburn’s record now stands at 22-3 overall, and 10-2 in the SEC. Momentarily, Auburn’s got a two-game lead and the tiebreaker over Tennessee.