Georgia Takes No. 1 Auburn to Wire in 74-72 Defeat
ATHENS, Ga. – Propelled by a furious second-half comeback, the University of Georgia men’s basketball team fell to No. 1 Auburn, 74-72, in a thriller before a season-best 10,523 spectators Saturday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.
Sophomore Kario Oquendo led Georgia (6-17, 1-9 SEC) with 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting, along with five rebounds and four steals. Senior Braelen Bridges tallied 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds, while junior Jaxon Etter pitched in with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Graduate Aaron Cook nearly reached a double-double with 10 points and nine assists. For the afternoon, the Bulldogs shot 40.7 percent from the field, raising the clip to 58.1 percent in the second half.
“We didn’t play a perfect game,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean following the game. “You don’t have to play a perfect game to win. You have to play a solid execution game with great effort and great toughness, and that’s what our guys did. So, I think we’ll continue to build on it the best we can that, and they should never get discouraged.”
Both teams found success from beyond the arc in the opening minutes, but Auburn (22-1, 10-0 SEC) used its inside game to build a 19-9 lead by the under-12 timeout. As the Bulldogs looked to keep up, the Tigers continued building on their lead with an 8-2 run, capped off by a fast break dunk from junior Devan Cambridge.
While Georgia’s offense struggled, Oquendo was able to find points at the foul line, quickly moving the Bulldogs into the bonus and narrowing the margin to nine with four minutes to play. The Tigers quickly responded with an 8-2 run powered by sophomore guard K.D. Johnson.
Once again utilizing the line, Georgia scored five straight as the teams headed to the locker room with Auburn leading 42-30 – for the half, 53 percent of the Bulldogs’ points came from free throws.
As the second half started, two quick Georgia baskets brought the Auburn lead to eight, but it was just the beginning of a Bulldog rally. Taking advantage of the Tigers’ poor shooting, the Bulldogs rattled off 11 unanswered points to make it 48-47, featuring a thunderous windmill dunk from Oquendo and a wide-open three from Etter that electrified the Stegeman crowd.
Led by Oquendo, the Bulldogs continued to battle back, eventually tying the contest with a corner three from senior Noah Baumann before taking the lead on a foul make from sophomore Jabri Abdur-Rahim. Coming out of the under-eight timeout, a quick 6-0 run gave the lead back to Auburn, but Georgia again tied the game with four minutes to play, moving back in front on an Oquendo jumper.
As the game wore down, Etter kept the Bulldogs ahead with back-to-back layups, but Auburn answered both times at the line. With 55 seconds remaining, Cook put Georgia up two as he was fouled, but was unable to convert on the and-one. After Johnson tied the game on the other end, Baumann missed from three, allowing sophomore Wendell Green, Jr. to score the game-winning layup with four seconds left.
On the final possession, Cook was forced to throw up a half-court attempt, but it hit the top of the glass as time expired.
Georgia returns to the road next week as it travels to rival Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 9. The matchup with the Gators tips at 6:30 p.m. and will air on SEC Network.