All that painfully earned momentum Georgia earned last weekend came perilously close to fluttering away.
No. 9-ranked Georgia survived one of its sloppiest games of the season to beat Auburn 61-58 on Thursday at Stegeman Coliseum. The game came just four days removed from the Lady Bulldogs beating then-No. 8 ranked Kentucky 75-71on the road.
“I don’t think tonight was a very good game for us,” Georgia guard Jasmine James said. “I think at Kentucky we had good focus. But tonight we didn’t have that kind of focus and it showed. Auburn was able to come back and get really close which made a difference is a tough game.”
The game was much closer than anticipated thanks to 19 of 64 (29.7 percent) field goal shooting by Georgia. Auburn, which lost its seventh straight game, left more than its share of points on the table as it only hit 3 of 15 (20 percent) from the free throw line. Auburn went into Thursday’s game ranked No. 12 in the conference in free throw shooting at 63.7 percent.
“Their free throws were horrible, I think that was the difference in the game,” Georgia guard Khaalidah Miller said. “We hit 19 free throws out of 22 and they only hit 3 out of 15 and that made up the difference.”
Georgia held a 12-point lead at halftime but Auburn rallied to tie the game twice in the last 4:29. Jasmine Hassell broke the final tie by hitting a pair of free throws to give Georgia a 55-53 lead with 3:15 left. Although Auburn never took the lead, it had multiple chances. Blanche Alverson hit a free throw to tie the game 51-51 with 4:39 left. But she missed the second free throw and Shacobia Barbee rebounded.
“I think in the end we got sloppy,” Hassell said. “In the first half we executed well but we kind of slipped in the second half. We missed a lot of shots around the basket that we should have made. We only shot 29 percent and a lot of those misses were little ones around the basket.”
Hassell led Georgia (30-3, 8-2 in the Southeastern Conference) with 15 points and Barbee added 14. James scored 13 and Miller had 10 as Georgia stayed within a game of first place in the SEC. But Georgia’s woeful field goal shooting and multiple missed layups stuck out in Georgia coach Andy Landers’ mind.
“We shot the ball 29 percent from the floor and won,” Landers said. “That’s pretty far-fetched. But we missed 15-to-18 layups, chip shots. That’s the easiest shot in basketball. Do you need a wakeup call after that? I don’t know.”
Hasina Muhammad scored 20, Alverson had 16 and Peyton Davis had 10 for Auburn (13-10, 2-8). Muhammad and Alverson teamed to score five straight to start the second half and permanently tighten the game.
“In 50 seconds they’ve got five points of our lead back,” Landers said. “But more importantly, they’ve got the momentum and they pretty much kept it the whole second half. That’s what happened. We’d get a little bit ahead and they’d end up someway getting a turnover or getting the ball on the perimeter and getting an easy layup. Every time we got a lead, they got something easy.”
Georgia’s field goal defense went flat as Auburn hit 25 of 50 (50 percent) from the field. The Tigers also shot better from the 3-point line (45.5 percent) than from the free throw line (20 percent).
“I thought we had a lot of opportunities in the basketball game, but we made some crucial mistakes,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “Costly turnovers, offensive rebounds by Georgia that didn’t give us our chances to win the game.”
Georgia played a sloppy first half but still led by 12 at intermission. Georgia only hit 12 of 33 (36.4 percent) from the field and had seven turnovers in the first half. But it forced 14 Auburn turnovers and held the Tigers to 10 of 24 (41.7 percent) field goal shooting.
Notes: The smallest player on either team, 5-foot-1 Auburn guard Najat Ouardad, got the game’s first rebound. … Auburn out-rebounded Georgia 41-39 but Georgia outscored Auburn 21-6 in second-chance points. … Georgia’s bench only scored four points