Tigers Hang On To Take Thriller Over Georgia

The Tigers stepped up at the line in the final minute to cap a much-needed victory over Georgia.

Auburn, Ala.--Marco Killingsworth and Lewis Monroe hit a pair of key 1-1 freethrows in the final minute Saturday and that was enough for the Tigers to win a 57-54 thriller at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum over Georgia.

Brandon Robinson takes the ball to the basket vs. Chris Daniels.

Georgia's Rashad Wright fired up a three-point shot to tie the game, but it rolled out of the rim with no time remaining on the clock to preserve the Tigers' victory. The Bulldogs pulled to within one at 55-54 with 21.1 seconds remaining on a Damien Wilkins' three-pointer, but then Lewis Monroe dropped in his free throws to seal the Tigers' win.

In a sloppy second half of basketball the Tigers, who are now 12-8 overall and 3-6 in SEC play, committed 13 of their 19 turnovers and it almost cost them a much-needed win.

Auburn coach Cliff Ellis explains that turnovers are still a big problem for his team. "That is the thing that we have got to answer and we realize that," the coach says. "I think what we have got to do is get a little bit tougher inside and quit playing on egg shells. There is no question we have too many turnovers in spurts. We didn't have them in the first half and in the second half we did and it is against the zone. If I were playing us I would zone every minute."

Even though the Tigers didn't take care of the ball well they were very tough on the boards and on defense. Auburn out-rebounded Georgia 34-28 and the Bulldogs turned the ball over 21 times in a very physical game.

Ellis says that those two statistics were both major keys to the victory. "Our rebounding overall was good," he noted. "Both teams turned it over, so that was kind of a draw with regards to play. I thought the key for us to win this game was our defense overall, our rebounding overall and hitting our free throws down the stretch."

Kyle Davis dunks in the Tigers' win over Georiga

Auburn point guard Lewis Monroe says that his team just wanted to keep the Bulldogs off balance offensively. "We were just kind of switching up the defenses," he explained. "Going man to man and throwing in a little zone. We just wanted to keep changing on them so they couldn't get settled."

Another major key to the game was the Tigers' bench. Auburn's bench outscored Georgia's 22-0 and Ellis says that he knew that would be important heading into the contest.

"Well, I think that was a key and Georgia's weakness is their depth and we wanted to expose that," Ellis said. "We talked about it as a team and we wanted to expose it by pressing and speeding the game up."

TYhe Tigers shot 39.6 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent from three-point range. The Bulldogs hit 42.5 percent of their shots, but were only 3-16 from downtown.

In the first half the Bulldogs, who drop to 11-9 and 3-6 in the conference, came out in man defense and the Tigers took advantage. Following a quick 4-0 lead by Georgia, Auburn got things moving by scoring seven straight to take a 7-4 lead on a Killingsworth jumper with 17:55 remaining.

After Georgia battled back to take a 12-10 lead on a Wilkins' lay-up, the Tigers went on a 8-0 run capped by a Dwayne Curtis lay-up to take a 20-12 lead. The freshman big man dropped in six points for the Tigers in a starting role.

Georgia pulled to within three at 25-22 on two Wilkins' free throws with 5:17 remaining, but that was as close as they would get in the first half. At the 2:45 mark a Quinnel Brown jumper gave the Tigers their largest lead of the game at nine, 34-25. Auburn then took things into the locker room with a 36-29 advantage.

For The Tigers Ian Young lead the way with 13 points. The guard also had four rebounds and three assists in a reserve role backing up at point guard and shooting guard. Brown added eight points and five boards and Monroe also scored nine points and dished out four assists. Killingsworth also had a solid game with eight points and eight rebounds.

For Georgia, Daniels, who scored eight of the Bulldogs' first 14 points, led the way with 16 points and seven boards. Wilkins and Levi Stukes both scored 11 in the losing effort and Jonas Hayes added 10 points and four boards.

With the Tigers 1-4 this season in games decided by six points or less heading into this contest, Monroe said that a win like this in a close one is great. "It felt good to be on the other end of things because we have been in a lot of close games so far," he noted.

The Tigers will have a break from action on Wednesday and will take this week to prepare for a road trip to Oxford next Saturday to take on the Ole Miss Rebels. The Tigers' next home game will be Saturday, January 21 against Kentucky.

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