After two straight games with big first-half deficits, No. 25 Auburn (17-5, 6-2 SEC) rode an 18-point halftime lead of its own on the way to a big victory over Georgia (14-8, 4-5 SEC) getting revenge on the Bulldogs to the tune of 94-73 Wednesday night.
“We were efficient offensively and we were getting stops,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Our guys were locked into the scouting report and what we did bothered them. Our defense was better in front of our bench again, which is a problem. We’ve got to do a better job in the second half.”
After a slow start offensively, including five-straight missed three-point shots to open the game, Auburn’s offense settled in behind the scoring of Johni Broome, Wendell Green Jr. and senior Allen Flanigan.
The offense was built around Broome at the start, who led the team at halftime with 13 points and 12 rebounds in just 14 first-half minutes. Behind Broome, Auburn’s offense cruised, shooting 45% from the floor and 28% from three.
It was not a dominant first half on the offensive end, but the defense suffocated the Bulldogs in the first 20 minutes. After giving up back-to-back 45-point first halves, Auburn held Georgia to just 24 points and shooting 31% while also forcing eight Bulldog turnovers.
Broome continued to dominate inside during the second half, but just sevens minutes of action limited the junior forward to six points and six points. With 19 points and 18 total board, Broome is the third Auburn player in the last five seasons to have 15-15 in a game, joining Austin Wiley and Walker Kessler.
“I took care of the ball and made smart plays. My teammates put me in good spots,” said Broome. “Coming into the game, we knew we had to be the more physical team and dominate the glass.”
While Broome cooled off in the second half, Allen Flanigan came alive with 13 points and a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.
“When Al plays with that rhythm and tempo and plays without a turnover, he does things inside and out, and defensively,” Pearl said.
In the end, it was 22 points for No. 22 as the senior forward was a highly efficient 8-of-10 from the field and even added two steals on the defensive end.
Veteran point guard Green found his groove again after struggling in West Virginia, finishing the game with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and six assists.
“Wendell’s a fierce competitor,” Pearl said. “All he cares about is winning.”
With Green running the offense, the Tigers had just five turnovers vs. Georgia’s 13. Green also helped spark a three-point shooting barrage as he went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
Behind the shooting of Green and Flanigan, Auburn hit nine of their next 20 threes after starting 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. The Tigers, which are ranked No. 345 in the country at three-point shooting, had gone cold in each of their back-to-back losses, including hitting just 18% from three in the loss to Texas A&M.
The Tigers scored 52 in the second half, shooting 67% from the floor and 45% from three, but the defense came apart as Georgia knocked down 10 second-half threes. The Bulldogs shot over 50% from the floor and beyond the arc in the second half, led by senior Mardez McBride who scored all 20 of his points off the bench in the second half.
Despite the efforts from McBride and company, the first-half deficit was simply too much to overcome.
“The guys and myself had to come out and put on a show today in order to prepare for that game,” Broome said. “Now we’re getting our eyes on Tennessee.”
Auburn will have to go back on the road for the third time in four games, heading to Knoxville for a Saturday duel with No. 2 Tennessee (18-4, 7-2). The Tigers and the Volunteers will square off on February 4 at 2 p.m. CST, with the big-time SEC matchup being broadcast on ESPN.
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