Balanced Attack Leads Auburn Past Bulldogs

The Auburn basketball Tigers held off a late run by the visitors on the way to a 74-67 victory on Saturday at Auburn Arena.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn won a second straight SEC basketball game on Saturday, defeating Georgia 74-67 as the Tigers used a balanced scoring attack and made clutch plays down the stretch to preserve the win.

Finding a way to win in the closing minutes had been real problem for the Tigers to start the SEC season so the Tigers cleared another hurdle as they improved their record to 10-9 overall and 2-6 in the league. Georgia fell to 10-10 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

Georgia cut a 13-point Auburn second half lead to 59-57, but the Tigers hit their free throws down the stretch while big men Matthew Atewe and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum made key blocks in the closing minutes to help the Tigers hold off UGA.

Five Tigers scored in double figures led by 18 points from Chris Denson and 16 from K.T. Harrell. Tahj Shamsid-Deen added 12 while Allen Payne and Dixon-Tatum finished with 10 points apiece.

"I have been asking for and sometimes if you ask for it will come true," Coach Tony Barbee said of his team's first SEC game with all five starters scoring in double figures.

"I am happy for the guys," Barbee said. "We did not have the energy we had the other night (vs. Alabama) so we made it harder on ourselves, but I still like the way we responded in some adverse situations. They (Georgia) are a good team and they made their run--good teams make runs--but we responded."

Dixon-Tatum led all rebounders with eight and blocked four shots. "Asauhn had a great game, not just a good game," Barbee said of the senior center. "He was a huge presence out there because he wasn't over-thinking anything. He just went out and played.

"Obviously, the little things I always talk about make a difference with us shooting free throws like we did today made a huge difference," Barbee added.

Like they did on Thursday night against Alabama the Tigers shot well at the free throw making 79.4 percent (27-34) of their attempts while UGA was 19-28.

The Tigers out-rebounded UGA 28-24 although the Bulldogs had been dominating opponents on the board.

Auburn also helped its cause by having two fewer turnovers (11 to 13) and making 7-16 threes while UGA hit 6-16 treys.

Auburn shot 46.5 percent from the field, including 55.6 percent in the second half, and UGA finished at 42 percent from the field

Junior guard K.T. Harrell shoots for the Tigers.

Auburn led almost the entire opening half and was up 33-25 at the break. Auburn's largest lead in the period was 11 points.

The Tigers forced 10 turnovers in the first half and committed just five, outscoring the Bulldogs 8-2 in points off turnovers. Harrell led the Tigers in the period in scoring with 13 points as Auburn hit 40 percent of its shots to 36.4 for the Bulldogs.

The Tigers built their lead to 55-42 on a pair of foul shots by Malcolm Canada with 10:38 left in the game, but Georgia made its run cutting the margin to 59-57 on a three-pointer from the corner by J.J. Frazier with 5:43 on the clock.

Payne responded with a rebound and a layup at the 5:21 mark and then Denson made the lead six points with a pair of foul shots.

It was multiple-possession game until the final minute when Charles Mann hit a layup with 28 seconds left to cut the lead to 70-67.

With 26 seconds left Shamsid-Deen hit two free throws. Dixon-Tatum then came up with a blocked shot and was fouled. He made both of those free throws with 13 seconds left to ice the game.

"It's always good to beat Georgia," said Denson, a native of Columbus, Ga. "Especially when they overlook you (don't offer a scholarship)--Tajh was saying in the locker room they overlooked me and Tajh. It was a great feeling beating them."

Tajh Shamsid-Deen hits a three-pointer vs. the Bulldogs.

Shamsid-Deen, who is from Decatur, Ga., admitted after the game that the win was special. "I take everything as a challenge," he said. "People always say my size is an issue, but since it was Georgia, hometown team, and they didn't look at me, of course I used that as motivation."

Georgia was led in scoring by guard Mann, who finished with 18 points, while Memanja Djursic added 11 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Georgia coach Mark Fox said, "The difference ended up being at the free throw line. We sent them there way too much and they shot their free throws well. We didn't shoot ours as well and we didn't get there as much.

"We didn't get off to a very good start so we played from behind, but ultimately the foul line killed us," Fox said.

The Tigers return to action on Wednesday with a road game vs. South Carolina.

Stat of the Game: Dixon-Tatum scored 10 points on just five field goals. He made four of those shots and was 2-2 at the foul line.

Worth Noting, Part 1: The last time the Tigers put five players in double figures vs. an SEC opponent was in February 2010 vs. Arkansas when Jeff Lebo was head coach.

Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers needed all of those points from the starters because the AU bench was outscored 24-8.

Worth Noting, Part 3: Denson was 7-9 at the foul line, his second straight strong performance on his free throws.

"I practice them every day," he said. "After the Missouri game I took the blame and I took it pretty hard because I missed so many free throws. I get so mad when I miss them now because I work on them day in and day out. I am just at the free throw line so much. It feels like I am there all game."

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