ATHENS — Georgia was expected to beat Auburn on Saturday no matter who showed up on Saturday. But when the Tigers arrived at Stegeman Coliseum without their best player, a rout was expected.
And the Bulldogs complied.
Georgia (13-8, 6-4 SEC) got 16 points from J.J. Frazier and 12 points and 12 rebounds from Yante Maten to manhandle a short-handed Auburn team 65-55.
“Any game that you play and you win, that’s a good night,” said senior Charles Mann, who also scored 12. “Beating Auburn was nice, but we’re going to enjoy this win today and then get ready for the next one.
Among the attendees at the sold-out game was Devon Gales, the Southern University football player who was paralyzed in a game against Georgia last fall
He received a standing ovation when he was recognized during the second half.
Here are five other observations from the game:
1. INSIDE-OUTSIDE COMBO AT WORK
Any successful team has to have a dependable inside-outside scoring combo, and Georgia appears to have that in J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten.
Frazier, the 5-foot-10 junior guard from Glennville, led the Bulldogs in scoring again with 16 points. He came in averaging a team-best 16.8 points per game. He also had five steals, six rebounds and went 8-of-9 from the foul line.
It was the ninth time this season in which Frazier led the team in scoring. That matches Maten, meaning one or other has paced the team in points in 18 of 21 games this year.
Meanwhile, Maten continued to be a dependable force in the middle for the Bulldogs. The 6-8 sophomore forward, who came in averaging 15.8 ppg, recorded his fifth “double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but he also added five blocks, one below his high for the season. And he did it while playing just 28 minutes.
“He’s a great player, and the greatest thing about is he’s still young,” said Frazier, who could say the same of himself. “He’s maturing in his role. I tell him every day I’m proud of him. … He’s played outstanding basketball from the first game to now.”
2. ANOTHER SELLOUT AT STEGEMAN
It’s been a busy two days at “the Stegosaurus,” as the Bulldogs’ affectionately refer to their home arena. Less than 24 hours after the Gymdogs performed before a sell-out crowd on the way to an upset of No. 1 Florida on Friday night, the 52-year-old building was filled to capacity again with 10,523 for men’s hoops versus Auburn.
Actually, sellouts at Stegeman are not that rare a thing anymore. In fact, this was the third straight Saturday in which the Bulldogs have maxed out attendance. It’s the fourth this season, including the one against Clemson on Dec. 22.
“We’ve had great support from our fans,” Fox said. “We’ve had many sellouts, and our fans were great today. They were terrific for us against South Carolina, even though it was a weekday game. One of the hard things with the new television package is we’re playing games anywhere from noon to 9 p.m. on different days of the week. It’s hard for people from Atlanta, I know, but even with those circumstances our attendance has been terrific.”
Georgia improved to 12-3 at home this season, 5-1 in SEC play.
3. KENTUCKY UP NEXT
After winning two in a row at their place, the Bulldogs head out on the road for two straight, starting with Tuesday’s late-night tilt at Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN). The Wildcats (17-6, 7-3) won their 33rd straight game at Rupp Arena on Saturday, 80-61 over Florida.
“If we play like we did today they’ll beat us (by) 200,” Fox said in his postgame briefing Saturday. “We have to play better than we did today, because we’re playing on the road and we’re playing one of the best teams in America and they’re playing their best basketball. So we’ve certainly got to play much better than we did today.”
Georgia, like pretty much everybody else in the league, hasn’t fared well in Kentucky. The Bulldogs are 5-60 when they play the mighty Wildcats at their place. Kentucky leads 119-26 overall.
“Well, the fact they have 24,000 people that are not just there, but willing to roll their sleeves up for their team, that makes a difference,” Fox said. “That and the fact they have great talent and a terrific coach, you combine those three and that’s a big monster.”
4. MANN ON THE MOVE
By halftime Saturday, Georgia’s Charles Mann moved up among Georgia’s top 20 scorers of all time. At that point, Mann had only five points, but that moved him up into a tie for 20th with Bob Healey.
And he’d keep moving up. Mann finished with 12 points, which raised him past Eric Marbury and into 19th place on Georgia’s career scoring list. Mann entered the game with 1,254 points. He began the season No. 36 on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list.
5. NO CANTY FOR AUBURN
The Bulldogs got a big break before tipoff when Auburn coach Bruce Pearl announced that Kareem Canty would be missing the game due to indefinite suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” This was no small omission from the Tigers’ lineup. Canty, a 6-1 junior, is their starting point guard, leading scorer (18.3 ppg), and leader in assists and 3-point shooting.
“We found out right before tip,” Georgia’s Frazier said. “But it didn’t change our game plan or out mindset about how hard we were going to play. We didn’t play well. They forced us to play methodically and somewhat erratically. But they’re a really good team. They were just missing one of their key players.
Well, not just one. The Tigers (9-13, 3-7) have been short-handed all season, their second under Pearl. Auburn was already without two other backcourt regulars — guards T.J. Dunans ad Tahj Shamsid-Deen — due to injuries. And Danjel Purifoy, a Top 100 signee out of Centreville, Ala., has been ineligible all season after his ACT was flagged.