Auburn got up big, lost the lead, and needed a huge play in the end. They’d get just what they needed from Chuma Okeke as he buried a late three-pointer to beat Georgia 78-75 in Athens.
Road games had been huge bugaboos for the Tigers this season and last, and this was a game that they couldn’t afford to lose. Georgia entered the contest at just 1-13 in the SEC, and on an eight-game losing streak. Auburn, meanwhile, stood at 7-7 in the conference and needed to win three of four to feel really good about guaranteeing an NCAA Tournament bid.
Tonight, Auburn’s two halves offensively couldn’t have been more different. In the first period of play, the Tigers put together 50 points, even after starting poorly from three-point range. Bryce Brown didn’t have his best night, and could only hit one early deep shot in the first half (1-7 overall). However, the rest of the team exploded from the floor after a cold start.
The Tigers hit just 3 of their first 12 shots, but finished the half shooting 50% overall, and led 50-40 at the half thanks to Jared Harper’s 16 points. Auburn made 8 three-pointers, but actually found the paint with ease and was able to get to the rim time and again. Without Austin Wiley and Malik Dunbar, Horace Spencer and J’Von McCormick made plays near the bucket in the first half, combining for 12 points on 4-7 shooting.
After halftime, however, things turned around. Auburn built a 57-45 lead, but then Georgia went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to just a point before claiming their first edge since early in the first half. Auburn finally regained that margin thanks to a 6-0 run to go up 73-67, but Georgia answered. A Nicholas Claxton three tied the game at 75 in the final minute, and Auburn needed a spark as they were put in a tough spot with only three seconds left on the shot clock. Somehow, Chuma Okeke got open on the inbound and buried a three-point to put Auburn up 78-75, and Georgia could only get a desperation three off in the end, securing an imperative road win for the Tigers in Athens.
Okeke’s 13 points were key, but Auburn was led by 22 from Jared Harper, including 16 before halftime. Horace Spencer added 10 off the bench for a team that shot 45% on the night. Georgia was led by Jordan Harris’ 18 points, but they committed 14 turnovers to just 7 by Auburn.
Up next, the Tigers host Mississippi State at home this coming Saturday. Then it’s a road game at Alabama on Tuesday before the home finale against Tennessee.