Georgia’s win over Auburn wasn’t pretty, but Bulldogs glad to keep momentum rolling

It was hardly a display of offensive proficiency by either team, but Georgia scored enough Wednesday night to keep its late-January momentum going.

The Bulldogs broke a tie game and outscored Auburn 14-6 in the final 3:44 for a 57-49 victory in Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia entered as the lowest-scoring team in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn was 10th in the SEC in field-goal percentage.

Those facts didn’t make watching the Bulldogs hit three field goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half while Auburn made two any easier.

But none of that mattered for Georgia after it won for the third time in four games.

“That was an SEC dogfight,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “It was an ugly game. It really was. It was so physical. We missed enough free throws to make me go crazy. We fouled 3-point shooters twice.

“We did some things that just drive a coach nuts, but both teams were playing so hard, and when you’re playing that hard, it’s hard to play pretty.”

Auburn matched its lowest point total of the season as it shot 28.3 percent from the field and made 15 of 27 from the foul line.

Georgia wasn’t much better on free throws, making 15 of 26 and committing 16 turnovers.

Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the way as usual for Georgia with 20 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds.

He hit 7 of 11 shots, but the rest of the teams shot 12 of 32.

Georgia (9-11, 3-4 SEC) won back-to-back SEC regular-season games for the first time since knocking off Arkansas and Mississippi State on Feb. 8 and 11 last season.

The Bulldogs were coming off their first road win of the season at Texas A&M.

“We’re climbing our way up the ladder,” Caldwell-Pope said. “This is a turning point for us.”

The Bulldogs can go to .500 in conference play with a win at South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

The Gamecocks were pounded by No. 4 Florida in Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday night, 75-36.

A crowd of 4,767 was in attendance in Athens on a day of strong storms across the state — with tornado warning and watches.

Fans who ventured out to Stegeman dealt with gusty winds and rain in Athens prior to a game that went down to the final minutes.

Charles Mann’s scoop layup with 3:40 to go gave Georgia a 45-43 lead and the freshman guard got a rebound on the other end off an Auburn miss. Mann (10 points, career-high six assists) then fed Donte’ Williams under the basket, who laid it off the glass and completed a three-point play for a 48-43 lead with 2:59 to go.

“We just had to tighten things up and start making plays,” Mann said. “We’ve been closing games out. It’s a big confidence booster for the whole team.”

Auburn (8-12, 2-5) trimmed the lead to two, but Caldwell-Pope’s follow off a Sherrard Brantley miss put Georgia ahead 50-46 with 1:07 to go, and after a miss by Auburn guard Chris Denson (12 points), Brantley was fouled and made 1 of 2 from the line.

Auburn pulled to within four, but Nemanja Djurisic’s outlet pass to Mann for a layup with 22.1 seconds left made it 55-49, and Vincent Williams added a pair of free throws for the final points of the game.

The Tigers dropped their fifth straight game.

“You can’t miss every shot you take, every free throw you take,” said Auburn guard Frankie Sullivan, who went 4 of 12 from the field and 4 of 8 from the line and shared the team scoring lead of 13 with Allen Payne. “We were getting open shots, we just couldn’t make them.”

Georgia entered holding an 89-88 edge in the all-time series with the average margin of victory in the series of 1.11 points per game. This one was close for most of the game, with the lead changing five times in the first half when neither team led by more than six. The Bulldogs led 26-22 at the half.

The game included a combined 46 fouls.

“Both teams were flat-out getting after it,” Fox said. “When two teams do that, it’s like a 6-3 football game.”

Caldwell-Pope admitted getting frustrated by some “bad calls.” He took an elbow to the nose at one point from Sullivan, but no foul was called.

Caldwell-Pope and the Bulldogs still got what they wanted—another win.

“We’ll take that one,” Caldwell-Pope said.

Georgia 57, Auburn 49

AUBURN (8-12)

Payne 3-8 5-6 13, Denson 4-12 4-9 12, S. Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Sullivan 4-12 4-8 13, Chubb 2-7 1-2 5, Dixon-Tatum 0-2 0-0 0, Price 2-7 0-0 5, Wallace 0-1 0-0 0, Greene Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, Granger 0-1 1-2 1, N. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-53 15-27 49.

GEORGIA (9-11)

Caldwell-Pope 7-11 4-4 20, V. Williams 1-3 2-2 4, D. Williams 2-3 2-3 6, Morris 1-3 3-6 5, Florveus 0-1 0-2 0, Mann 4-8 2-4 10, Dixon 1-1 0-0 2, Gaines 1-2 0-0 3, Brantley 1-7 1-2 4, Cannon 0-1 0-0 0, Djurisic 1-3 1-3 3. Totals 19-43 15-26 57.

Halftime—Georgia 26-22. 3-Point Goals—Auburn 4-20 (Payne 2-4, Sullivan 1-6, Price 1-6, N. Johnson 0-1, S. Johnson 0-1, Denson 0-2), Georgia 4-17 (Caldwell-Pope 2-5, Gaines 1-2, Brantley 1-4, Djurisic 0-1, V. Williams 0-2, Mann 0-3). Fouled Out—D. Williams. Rebounds—Auburn 33 (Chubb 6), Georgia 38 (Caldwell-Pope 10). Assists—Auburn 7 (Sullivan 4), Georgia 11 (Mann 6). Total Fouls—Auburn 25, Georgia 21. A—4,767.

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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