Auburn, Ala.--Jordon Granger posted his first collegiate double-double for points and rebounds and the Auburn Tigers needed every one of them to hold off the Georgia Bulldogs for an 84-81 SEC basketball victory on Wednesday night.
The senior scored 18 points, a collegiate career high, while adding a career-high 11 rebounds. He was 4-7 on threes and 6-6 at the foul line.
The senior from suburban St. Louis, Mo., said it was his best game at Auburn. Coach Bruce Pearl, who has worked with Granger for two seasons, said, “It was pretty special for Jordon Granger to pick up the first double-double of his career against a rival opponent in Georgia.”
What made the performance even more impressive, Pearl noted, is that Granger moved back to his old position, power forward, because Auburn’s starter at that spot, Tyler Harris, was not able to play due to a concussion suffered last Saturday.
“He is probably better at it (power forward), but because we have been so banged up in the backcourt all year long he has had to play the three (small forward), but he is pretty good at the four. It is the position he trained for all summer so we turned a negative into a positive there.”
Freshman center Horace Spencer scored a collegiate-high nine points while adding eight rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. “I thought Horace Spencer got us off to a great start,” Pearl said.
Auburn improved to 11-16 overall and 5-10 in the league, topping last year’s regular season SEC victory total. Georgia dropped to 14-12 overall and 7-8 in the SEC.
T.J. Lang, a sophomore who was 4-7 on treys, led the Tigers in scoring with a career-high 21 points while T.J. Dunans and Bryce Brown added 12 points apiece.
“I thought Dunans made a huge difference,” Pearl said of the junior who was in his second game back after being out since Dec. 23 with an injury. “That is cool because he is a Georgia boy. Seven assists and one turnover...he helps us be better.”
Lang hit 8-10 free throws and Brown was 6-8 at the foul line. Lang pointed out that Pearl challenged the guards to attack the backboard more so they could get more foul shots. “I think we did a pretty good job with that today,” said Lang.
Bryce Brown is grabbed by UGA's Kenny Gaines.
Free throws were a big part of the victory for the Tigers, who hit 29-39, including 22-30 in the second half when the Bulldogs were fouling intentionally as part of their comeback strategy, which almost worked when Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier got hot late in the game. Frazier finished with 29 points while Mann hit six treys on the way to scoring 23 points. However, the Tigers made their free throws in the closing minutes to hold on for the victory.
The Tigers took a quick early lead in the first half and never trailed in the period. A three-pointer by Granger, who scored eight points and pulled in eight first half rebounds, stretched the margin into double figures at 29-17 with 4:36 left in the period.
The lead reached as many as 19 points as Granger hit a pair of free throws at the 1:59 mark.
Halftime Notes: The Tigers made 13-34 field goals (38.2 percent), 6-13 threes and 7-9 free throws while the Bulldogs hit 7-27 field goals (25.9 percent), 3-10 threes and 6-9 free throws. Auburn out-rebounded the Bulldogs 25-18 in the half and had seven turnovers, two fewer than the visitors who were outscored 11-5 in points off of turnovers in the half.
Lang scored 14 points in the first half to lead all scorers as he took five three-pointers and made four of them. Mann led UGA in first half points with nine.
The momentum began to change in the second half. Georgia cut the lead to under 10 points with 11:45 to play when Kenny Gaines hit a three-pointer to make the score 55-47. Auburn built the margin back into double figures, but the Bulldogs got hot shooting the ball late in the contest, hitting 51.4 percent of their shots in the second half, including 10-22 three-pointers.
Brown’s two free throws with four seconds left put the Tigers up by three points. Frazier was fouled with 1.9 seconds on the clock, but he missed the first free throw and then intentionally missed the second, but Auburn got the rebound to ice the victory.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Auburn’s halftime lead of 16 points was the most since being ahead of LSU by 17 in February 2010.
Worth Noting, Part 2: The Tigers were plus seven in rebounds at halftime, but finished with 38 while Georgia pulled in 46, a statistic that helped fuel UGA’s attempted comeback.
Worth Noting, Part 3: Pearl had these comments about wanting T.J. Lang and Bryce Brown to be more aggressive in attacking the basket on offense. “I think he was more assertive in his play, Pearl said. "I think he took the criticism and the challenge to heart. Talking to both Lang and Bryce Brown, what do we say about guys that just make three balls and don’t get to the foul line and don’t rebound? ‘That’s not who you are, so get in there and rebound.’
"Bryce had six rebounds and shot eight free throws. He might not feel good about the fact that he was 2-for-11, but he played with greater toughness and physicality, and so did TJ Lang," Pearl said. "I thought that was huge. The result for TJ Lang was a career-high 21. Without Cim and without Tyler, Dunans had a career night, Horace blocks four and plays terrific, Dunans has seven assists and one turnover, Lang has a career night, and Bryce had six rebounds. That’s what it takes when you are playing seven guys.”
Stat of the Game: Auburn outscored UGA 16-4 in bench points.
Up Next: The Tigers will play at Alabama on 4 p.m. on Saturday. “We better buckle our chin strips,”?Pearl said. “They are going to hit us in the mouth.”