Observations: Georgia 76, Auburn 64
The Tigers' first SEC road game was a rude awakening, as a 12-point loss to a rebuilding UGA team further exposed big problems.
C Johni Broome (@AuburnMBB/Twitter)
ATHENS, Ga. — Allen Flanigan pulled up from midrange and hit a clutch jumper.
After trailing by 11, Auburn finally had the lead on the road at Georgia — a team it had beaten in eight of its last 10 meetings.
The lead only lasted 14 seconds.
On the other end of the floor, Georgia transfer point guard Terry Roberts drove the lane and hit a layup. Former Georgia guard K.D. Johnson, now in his second season at Auburn, turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. Roberts hit a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound a few moments later.
Another Auburn miss. Another Georgia second-chance bucket. Another Auburn miss. Another Georgia score. Wendell Green Jr. ended the Georgia run with an and-one, but Georgia got it all back with a Kario Oquendo triple on the other end.
Auburn would go into the halftime locker room down by seven points. It never got within four points the rest of the way. Georgia had a counterpunch to every mini-run Auburn had — the Tigers seemingly couldn’t string together enough buckets or stops.
Those 14 seconds in the first half made up Auburn’s entire time with the lead Wednesday night. Georgia, meanwhile, led for nearly 38 minutes.
“They played well,” Bruce Pearl said. “They outplayed us. … Didn't get off to a very good start, which you have to on the road in order to win, and they did, which gave them some confidence.”
Auburn’s 78-64 loss to Georgia on Wednesday night was a rude awakening. Georgia has improved greatly under new head coach Mike White, who went 9-3 against Pearl’s Auburn at Florida.
Auburn, meanwhile, has regressed from its SEC title-winning campaign — and that’s without taking the losses of All-American, first-round draft picks Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler into account. The Tigers are now 3-3 this season away from the Plains, and only two future SEC opponents are rated lower than these Bulldogs.
There’s a whole lot of basketball left to be played, as Auburn is just two games into an 18-game SEC gauntlet. But the way the Tigers are playing right now, especially away from home, will make fighting into NCAA Tournament position a tough task.
“We have to fix a lot of things,” said Johni Broome, who had a season-high 22 points and 12 rebounds despite missing some time in the first half with an injury. “But everything is fixable. Let's get back to it and let's get the next one.”
Here are four Observations from Auburn’s rough loss in Athens, along with the Rotation Charts, Nerd Stats and the Quote of the Night.
Auburn’s guard play has regressed…
Auburn scored just 64 points Wednesday night, averaging just .941 points per possession. The Tigers’ effective field goal percentage was 39.1%, which was their third-worst mark of the entire season.
They scored on less than half of their trips down the floor and, despite a turnover rate that wouldn’t even crack the top half of their worst performances of the year, couldn’t get much consistently on offense.
Again, Broome scored 22, and Flanigan had a solid bounce-back 11-point performance in which he went 50% from the field. They combined for more than half of Auburn’s points.
Meanwhile, Auburn’s four main rotation guards — Green, Zep Jasper, K.D. Johnson and Tre Donaldson — combined for just 16 points on 5-23 (21.7%) shooting. (Keep that 16-point figure in mind, it’ll be pretty important in a moment.) It’s hard to have any sort of offensive consistency when your guards provide so little in terms of production, and Auburn paid for it dearly in this matchup.
Although he wasn’t alone, Green’s performance was a real problem for Auburn, considering his position as the starting point guard. He went 2-12 from the field and 0-6 from deep, and he had four turnovers to just three assists. Donaldson didn’t hit any of his three shots from the field and had just a couple of rebounds and an assist in his 14 minutes of action.
“We've got to get better point guard play,” Pearl said.
Green had a great debut season at Auburn, as he greatly outperformed Smith and Kessler in net rating. According to KenPom, his assist rate was one of the best in the country at 35.7, and he had a turnover rate of 17.9. So far this season, Green’s assist rate has fallen to 27.9 while his turnover rate is up to 25.1.
The numbers are even tougher against higher quality opponents. Against top-100 teams this season, Green has 19 assists to 25 turnovers. He has also hit just 6 of his 29 3-point attempts for a percentage of just 20.7%.
But, again, Green is not alone. Johnson, who hit an early 3-pointer in this game for his only points of the night, is down across the board in his scoring average and shooting percentages. Jasper’s modest offensive output has also decreased so far this season. And freshman Chance Westry, who was expected to be a key guard for Auburn before his late-offseason surgery, is not in the main rotation right now as he works his way back to 100%.
Pearl didn’t go out and recruit over the heads of Green, Jasper and Johnson after last season’s SEC championship run. The portal efforts at guard were more for reinforcements instead of replacements. The thought was that the trio would improve and help make up for the losses of Smith and Kessler.
Instead, Auburn’s backcourt isn’t nearly as effective as it was last season, and that’s really showed up in the lackluster offensive execution.
PG Wendell Green Jr. (@AuburnMBB/Twitter)