ATHENS, Ga (AP)No. 22 Auburn’s first SEC road game provided a somber reality check for coach Bruce Pearl, who said it’s time to get back to work on his backcourt.
Terry Roberts overcame early foul trouble to match his career high with 26 points and Georgia made first-year coach Mike White’s Southeastern Conference debut with the Bulldogs memorable by beating Auburn 76-64 on Wednesday night.
Roberts and backcourt partner Kario Oquendo, who had 17 points, consistently drove past Auburn guards. Pearl said the Bulldogs’ 36-28 advantage in points in the paint was the result of the guards driving to the basket.
”Layups,” Pearl said. ”Just driving past us. It wasn’t the post-up game. … We’ve got to figure out a way to not let people get downhill as easily.”
Auburn (11-3, 1-1 SEC) trailed most of the game despite Johni Broome’s 22 points and 12 rebounds. The Tigers couldn’t stage a serious late comeback, pulling no closer than eight points in the final 3 minutes.
Allen Flanigan, with 11 points, was Auburn’s only other scorer in double figures. Jaylin Williams, who was averaging 10.3 points, made only 1 of 9 shots from the field and was held to five points.
”We can’t win if Jaylin Williams goes 1 for 9, we just can’t,” Pearl said.
Auburn had similar matchup problems in their other losses this season to Memphis and Southern California.
”Our problem has been going against really good guards,” Pearl said, adding the Tigers ”have got to get better point guard play. … Keeping guards in front of us has become an issue.”
Georgia (11-3, 1-0) celebrated its SEC opener before 10,232 fans under White, the former Florida coach.
Roberts, a transfer from Bradley, missed much of the first half after picking up two early fouls. The senior guard made 9 of 12 free throws and 8 of 16 shots from the field.
”He was able to finish a lot of baskets,” Broome said of Roberts. ”That’s on me.”
Roberts’ 26 points set a season high and matched his career high with Bradley.
”I thought Terry Roberts played fantastic,” White said. ”He played with poise; he made good decisions. Considering the defensive prowess of Auburn, I thought Terry really blossomed.”
The Bulldogs are enjoying a dramatic turnaround under White after finishing 6-26 overall and last in the SEC at 1-17 last season, leading to the firing of coach Tom Crean.
”We just beat a ranked opponent,” White said. ”Our guys have been through a lot. I want them to feel good about it.”
Broome scored Auburn’s first seven points and also was leading the team with four rebounds when he fell to the court midway through the first half, grabbing his right ankle in pain.
Broome was helped to the Auburn bench, where trainers taped the ankle. The 6-foot-10 sophomore returned to the game late in the half. He played 29 minutes and said his ankle ”is good.”
Auburn: After struggling to keep pace offensively in the first half, Pearl’s Tigers turned up the heat on their long-range shooting. Williams opened the second half with a 3-pointer for his only made field goal of the night. Broome and Zep Jasper added 3s for Auburn’s first three field goals of the half. But the Tigers couldn’t enjoy consistent shooting. Other than Broome, who made 9 of 17 shots, the Tigers made only 15 of 52 shots (28.8%) from the field.
Georgia: The Bulldogs showed good depth in their ability to overcome an early crisis when Roberts, the starting point guard, picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and had to leave the game. Roberts’ replacement, Justin Hill, had two quick turnovers but still Georgia stayed close until Roberts returned late in the half.
Auburn: Returns home to play No. 13 Arkansas on Saturday night.
Georgia: White will return to his former school when the Bulldogs play at Florida on Saturday.
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