ATHENS — Georgia’s attempt to get back on track was derailed by Auburn on Wednesday night, the Tigers proving too big of an obstacle to overcome.
Auburn (7-6, 1-4 SEC) scored a 95-77 victory over the Bulldogs on Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum, notching its conference win of the season while keeping Georgia winless in league play (7-4, 0-4).
Tigers’ freshman Sharife Cooper, a 6-foot-1 guard from Marietta, lit up his home-state school for 28 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in his second game of the season since being granted eligibility.
UGA freshman K.D. Johnson had 21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals in his collegiate debut. Johnson, who was 9-of-19 shooting, is a consensus Top 100 recruit from Atlanta who attended Hargrave Military (Va.) Academy.
Sahvir Wheeler also had 19 points and 5 assists for the Bulldogs, and Toumani Camara had 12 points and 4 rebounds.
The Bulldogs never could get in sync, hitting just 50 percent from the free-throw line (17 of 34) and 41.8 percent from the floor (28-of-67).
The longer, taller Tigers had something to do with that. Auburn blocked (14) shots, the most in Coach Bruce Pearl’s six seasons as head coach on The Plains.
The Tigers — who shot 56 percent from the floor — led from the opening tip, racing out to a 45-34 halftime lead.
Georgia charged back with a 7-0 run to open the second half, pulling to 45-41 on a Johnson steal and layup with 18:35 left.
The Bulldogs, however, could not maintain the pace offensively or defensively.
Georgia went the next 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal, falling behind by more than 20 points before Justin Kier ended the dry spell with a bucket at the 10:48 mark to cut the lead to 67-46.
“I thought we were there in the second half, we were making runs,” Coach Tom Crean said. “We get a couple of baskets and stops, and then we’d make a mistake.”
The Bulldogs were unable to get back within single digits the rest of the game.
“We’re in a leadership vacuum right now, fortunately, KD Johnson is playing,” Crean said. “We’ve got to shake it up because we’re not getting that leadership that brings people together and makes them feel they are going to go.
“I’ve got to look at who I’m playing and look at combinations, and I may have to make some tough choices.”
Georgia returns to action at noon on Saturday at Ole Miss (TV: ESPN2).