Though the light attendance in Stegeman Coliseum and the limited availability of the broadcast on television prevented many folks from seeing the contest, the Georgia Bulldogs hosted the equally inept Auburn Tigers for a men’s basketball game on Wednesday night, and the 11th- and 12th-best teams in the SEC duked it out in an effort to out-ugly one another. The Fox Hounds ended up prevailing by a 57-49 margin, but don’t let that score fool you; it was a much, much crappier basketball game than the final tally suggests.
Chris Denson’s jump shot 15 seconds into the contest gave Auburn a 2-0 lead that held up for more than two minutes. Georgia trailed by five after four minutes of play and by six two minutes later, but the Red and Black began their comeback with a couple of Charles Mann free throws, followed up by a Kenny Gaines trey. After a long scoring drought, the Fox Hounds finally took a 14-13 lead on a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope three-pointer nearly ten minutes into the first half.
Donte` Williams extended the Classic City Canines’ edge with a dunk, and the Athenians clung to their tenuous advantage until Allen Payne dropped in a layup inside the five-minute mark. Georgia took advantage of Tiger misses and turnovers to head to the locker room holding a four-point lead. The Plainsmen drained fewer than one-third of their shots from the field (8 of 25) in the first half, and fared only slightly better from the charity stripe (3 of 8). Consequently, the Red and Black were out in front at the break, despite 40 per cent shooting from the free throw line. In the initial 20 minutes, the Bulldogs had more rebounds (20-14), more second-chance points (6-0), more points in the paint (10-6), more points off of turnovers (8-4), more bench points (12-3), and more made treys (4-3).
Mann extended the home team’s advantage to 28-22 at the outset of the second half, but Auburn chipped away at Georgia’s narrow lead, at least to the extent that a team may be said to chip away at a lead in any game in which both squads go two and a half minutes without scoring. When the Tigers’ free throws began to fall at a rate that might be described as other than atrocious, the Plainsmen tied their hosts at 29 inside the 16-minute mark, then again at 31 with 14 and a half minutes remaining in regulation play.
Nemanja Djurisic put the Hoop Dogs back out in front by one with a lone made free throw, and there followed the usual exchange of fouls, misses, and turnovers, this time lasting for more than two minutes until Djurisic banged down the jumper that gave the Red and Black a lead (34-31) that looked like a football score from a Georgia-Auburn game played between the hedges in the 1990s.
The Tigers twice pulled within one point of the Bulldogs, after which the pattern of fouls, misses, and steals again reared its ugly head for a minute and a half before Caldwell-Pope hit a jump shot and Williams managed to get one free throw to fall. The Plainsmen cut the lead to two, then Caldwell-Pope hit two from the charity stripe to stake the Athenians to a 41-37 advantage with seven and a half minutes to play. That score survived until the six-minute mark, when Auburn began making foul shots---well, a few of them, at any rate---until they snarled the score at 43 with fewer than five minutes showing on the scoreboard.
Mann missed the free throws that would have allowed Georgia to reclaim the lead, but he made up for those miscues by pulling down a defensive rebound and turning it into a layup. Williams added three more on a layup and a free throw, but the Tigers cut their deficit to 48-45 as the clock ticked under three minutes. A Frankie Sullivan free throw made it a two-point game heading inside the two-minute mark, but a Caldwell-Pope tip-in took the Red and Black’s point tally to 50 with 67 seconds remaining.
There followed a relative flurry of scoring, as the two teams combined for eight points in the next 40 seconds, though, to be fair, six of them were free throws. The other two came on a fastbreak layup by Mann, after which the Plainsmen missed two treys, Vincent Williams drained two foul shots, and the game, mercifully, ended. Between them, the Bulldogs and the Tigers fired a cumulative 53 free throws, finding the bottom of the net on 30 of them. There were 27 total turnovers, 37 collective shots from beyond the arc (eight of which made it into the basket), and 17 total offensive rebounds by both teams.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points, marking the fewest points he has scored in a conference victory this season; only one other Bulldog scored more than six. The good news is that, this year, the SEC is a bad basketball league, so a team as crappy as Georgia has a shot to beat almost anyone left on the schedule. This is by no means a compliment to the Fox Hounds, but, hey, if you’re going to play a bunch of lousy opponents, you may as well beat them, because, while bad, it’s still a lot better than the alternative.