Saturday’s loss to Missouri aside, No. 11 Auburn and Wednesday’s opponent, Georgia, are two programs that are heading in opposite directions.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers (22-3, 9-3 SEC) continue to roll with the big boys of the conference, looking every bit as dangerous as the team that advanced to last year’s Final Four.
Georgia (12-13, 2-10), meanwhile, under second-year coach Tom Crean, continues to struggle despite the presence of Anthony Edwards, whom many still project will be the top pick in the NBA Draft in June.
On Wednesday, the two teams meet for the second time this year, this time in Athens, Ga.
Auburn, meanwhile, has a projected NBA lottery pick of its own in freshman Isaac Okoro. However, Okoro recently suffered a hamstring injury and sat out Saturday’s loss to Missouri. He remains questionable for Wednesday.
Auburn certainly missed his presence, especially on the defensive end as Missouri shot 54.9 percent for the game to pull the 85-73 upset.
“We weren’t good defensively,” Pearl said. “Missouri averages in the high 60s. They scored 85 tonight.”
But Auburn still has plenty of weapons that will can trouble for a Bulldogs team that has dropped four straight and eight of nine.
Despite lacking Okoro, senior center Austin Wiley scored 22 points and pulled down 10 boards, his first 20-point game since he dropped 25 against TCU in his freshman year.
The Tigers struggled from the perimeter, however, going just 1 of 17 from 3-point land. Although Auburn was able to find some success down low, the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of the fouls they drew, going just 30 of 46 from the line.
“You score 73 points on the road, and you shoot 47 percent and get to the foul line 46 times — those are some numbers that should win a basketball game,” Pearl said.
Crean, meanwhile, just wants to win. As the nation’s third-youngest team with nine true freshmen, Georgia’s inconsistencies have been well-documented. So has the team’s penchant for blowing leads, which the Bulldogs did in Saturday’s loss at Texas A&M.
Georgia led Texas A&M by 12 points with over a minute to play in the first half.
“This is why this is such a process here, and it makes me so sick to my stomach when we play as hard as we do and we do good things, but yet we give the other team 26 points off turnovers,” Crean said.
“They shoot 53 percent in the second half, and we can’t do anything about it because they’re live ball turnovers. It’s guard play, it’s wing play, you name it. It’s not happening. That’s why this is a process …”
But Crean continues to think positively.
“Discouraged? No, I’m disappointed. I don’t really get discouraged. I’m disappointed because I want them to play — I’m disappointed for our fans. I’m disappointed in our effort. You want your guys to be successful. Discouraged is not — I don’t really go there, I don’t think. Angry, disappointed, yeah, those things happen,” he said. “But we’ve got to overcome it.”
–Field Level Media