ATHENS — Georgia basketball gets back on the court to face rival Auburn, looking to avenge a 95-77 defeat earlier this year at Stegeman Coliseum
The Bulldogs (10-6, 3-6 SEC) tip-off against the Tigers (10-8, 4-5) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at Auburn Arena (TV: SEC Network) having won three of their last five games since that loss.
“This is an improved Georgia team,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said. “It’s hard to beat a good team twice. It is. They are probably just excited about the fact that the score is 0-0 because we got away from them a little bit there.
“I’ll remind my guys it was a three-point game with about three minutes to go in the first half, and when they started off on a 7-0 run to behind the second half, we only had a four-point lead.”
Crean and the Bulldogs will surely be mindful of Sharife Cooper, a 6-1 guard from Powder Springs, Ga., who went off for 28 points in the teams’ first meeting.
“They are explosive, long and moving the ball very well with Sharife Cooper at the point,” UGA coach Tom Crean said. “We need to be really good in transition defense, keep them from initiating the contact on drives, which gets them to the foul line, and compete on the glass.”
It’s another tough matchup for the undersized Bulldogs, who open the second half of the SEC season looking to improve on their free-throw shooting and 3-point marksmanship.
Georgia ranks 11th in the SEC in free-throw shooting (77.1 percent) and 10th in 3-point shooting (31.8 percent).
On the flip side, Crean’s team moves the ball better than any other in the league in his offense, averaging an SEC-best 15.5 assists per game led by Sahvir Wheeler.
Wheeler, a sophomore point guard, leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation with 7.4 assists per game.
Freshman K.D. Johnson is one player Wheeler will be looking for, as Johnson scored his career-high of 21 points in his UGA debut against Auburn.
Johnson, from Atlanta, took just two shots and played only 12 minutes in the Bulldogs’ 71-61 win over Ole Miss last Saturday.
“It’s so hard to come in when he did and play multiple positions on the floor,” Crean said. “It takes time. He’s so competitive that he makes up for it.”
GeorgiaDogs.com Did You Know
Georgia’s Stony Brook Graduate transfer Andrew Garcia has notched four-consecutive double-digit scoring outputs, averaging 13.5 ppg during that span. He was the Bulldogs’ top scorer against both Kentucky and Florida.