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Feb 1, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Wendell Green Jr. (1) dives for a shot during the game between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics
Feb 1, 2022; Auburn, AL, USA; Wendell Green Jr. (1) dives for a shot during the game between Auburn and Alabama at Auburn Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jacob Taylor/AU Athletics

Just Enough to Win

Green’s Layup Pushes Tigers Pass Georgia

With the game on the line, Auburn turned to the shortest player on the floor to make the clutch shot. Noah Baumann missed a three with 13 seconds to play which would have given Georgia the lead and then Wendell Green, Jr. went coast-to-coast following a Walker Kessler defensive rebound and made a tough layup with 3.6 seconds to play to push the top ranked Tigers past Georgia by a final margin of 74-72 and extend the Tigers’ winning streak to 19 wins in a row. 

Georgia (6-17, 1-9 SEC) had one final chance to pull the upset, but Aaron Cook’s halfcourt heave fell harmlessly to the floor as the clock expired. Auburn (22-1, 10-0 SEC) led by as many as 15 in the first half, but the Bulldogs shot the ball at a 58.1% clip in the final 20 minutes to get back in it and neither team led by more than four points for the final 15:52 of the game.

Auburn wasted no time in jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half, holding Georgia to six made field goals in the first twenty minutes. The Tigers led by as many as 15 in the first period and went into halftime up 42-30. The only reason Georgia was able to stay within striking distance in the first half was the charity stripe. The Bulldogs made it to the line 22 times in the first 20 minutes and made 16 of those shots. Georgia finished the first half with more points from the free throw line (16) than from the field (14). 

The Bulldogs came out of the locker room at the start of the second half on fire and used a 17-6 run to cut the Tigers’ lead to one with 15:16 to play. The Tigers struggled with their transition defense in the second half as Georgia repeatedly was able to get run-out after run-out. Auburn never trailed by more than two in the game but also never led by more than four down the stretch. Aaron Cook gave Georgia the lead on a layup with 55 seconds to play, but Auburn scored the final four points of the game – on a K.D. Johnson layup and then Green’s layup – to pull this one out of the fire. After making 16 free throws in the first half, the Bulldogs only made four free throws in the second half.

Auburn’s best on-ball perimeter defender, Zep Jasper, missed the game due to a non-COVID illness. Postgame, head coach Bruce Pearl pointed to his (Jasper’s) absence and fatigue as part of the reason for Auburn seeming to run out of gas in the second half. Green, who normally comes off the bench at point guard, started and wound up playing 36 minutes in the game. His backcourt mate, Johnson, also played more minutes than usual finishing the game with 33 minutes played. Johnson led the Tigers with 20 points, while Green scored 19 and added five rebounds and three assists. Johnson and Green only managed a combined 12 points in the second half as fatigue seemed to affect their shooting strokes. However, with the game on the line both guards came through with the must have plays by scoring the final four points of the game.

Auburn’s heralded frontcourt endured a bit of an off game. Walker Kessler played through foul trouble and finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Freshman Jabari Smith was held to seven points on 28.6% shooting from the field but did grab six rebounds.

Auburn outrebounded Georgia 46-35, including an 18-11 edge on the offensive glass. The Tigers turned those 18 offensive rebounds into 20 second chance points. Auburn finished the game shooting 39.7% from the field and made 14 of 18 free throws. For the game, Georgia shot 40.7% from the field. The Tigers’ bench outscored the Bulldogs 10-2.

The Bulldogs were led by Kario Oquendo with 25 points. Braelen Bridges scored 14 with seven rebounds, Jaxon Etter contributed 13 on five of six shooting from the field, and Cook just missed out on a double-double finishing with 10 points and nine assists.

Auburn will look to stretch their winning streak to 20 on Tuesday evening when they travel to Fayetteville for a 7 p.m. tipoff against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

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