Auburn and Georgia were tied as the clock neared two minutes Saturday night. Kyle Davis caught an elbow from Georgia's Steve Thomas. He delivered something of a punch in response. Thomas chased Davis into the Auburn bench, showing himself to be either really brave or not very smart. Two officials were knocked down.
To the credit of the players on both teams, no one else got involved. It could have been a melee with lasting repercussions, but it wasn't. Thomas and Davis were ejected and will not play in their teams' next games. That's too bad, but that's the rules.
If Georgia coach Jim Harrick had kept his head a few minutes later, Auburn might not have ended its six-game losing streak with a 75-72 victory. We'll never know. With 46 seconds left, Harrick got a technical foul, went ballistic, got another and was ejected. Auburn, leading 62-60 at the time, made five of six free throws and went on to the victory.
When it was over, Harrick had something bad to say about just about everybody. He said the officials shouldn't have thrown him out of a game of that magnitude. I guess that means it would have been all right to throw him out of some other game. Or maybe the best thing would have been if he hadn't gone all the way out to midcourt to protest.
Harrick wasn't happy about the Davis-Thomas incident either. He said the only thing he saw was Davis hit Thomas "right in the mouth." Davis' fist never came anywhere close to Thomas' mouth, but hey, why let the facts get in the way? Harrick submitted an expense account or two at UCLA that were very short on facts.
While he was at it, Harrick implied that Auburn was remiss in not having a monitor beside the court (the game was not televised). He did manage to say that Auburn actually played a good game.
Harrick just seems to be an unhappy man when he comes to Auburn. After getting trounced on his first trip here as Georgia's coach two years ago, he questioned the quality of Auburn guards Doc Robinson and Scott Pohlman. They'd been the starters the previous year on a team that went to the Sweet 16. Oh, those pesky facts!
The loss was costly for Georgia. The Bulldogs fell out of the East Division lead. And they'll have to play without Thomas when Florida goes to Athens for a showdown Tuesday night on ESPN. There is a good possibility Auburn and Georgia could meet again. If Auburn finishes last in the West, it would play the third-place team from the East on the first day of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. That could well be Georgia.
For Auburn, Saturday's victory was welcome relief. With four freshmen in the starting lineup, the Tigers played probably their best SEC game of the season. Ironically, both of their SEC wins have come against top 25 teams.
What does it mean? Probably not a whole lot for this season. But the future is bright for this Auburn basketball team. Next year will be much better than this one. And the next could be even better than that.
It's a fact of life for most SEC basketball programs that big winning can't be sustained for long periods of time. Kentucky can do it. Arkansas can do it to an extent. No one else has shown the ability to do it.
Auburn had a championship team in 1999. It could have had another one in 2000, but Chris Porter was suspended and that was that. Then it was time to rebuild. Two years ago, Alabama had a losing record. The nucleus of that team was the same as the nucleus of this one--Rod Grizzard, Erwin Dudley, Kenny Walker and company. The difference? They were freshmen then. They are juniors now.
The idea floating around that Gene Chizik was a desperation choice to be Auburn's defensive coordinator is laughable. It amuses me when clueless radio talk show hosts proclaim such garbage came from their "sources."
Chizik, who had been Central Florida defensive coordinator since 1998, was on Tommy Tuberville's short list from the start. When Paul Rhoads decided to stay at Pitt, Chizik moved to the top of the list. The only reason it wasn't done a lot earlier was because he didn't want to leave with recruiting in its final stages.
Chizik might not be as well-known as, say, Woody Widenhofer, but he is extremely well-respected by other coaches, by pro scouts and by those who played for him. Tuberville had plenty of choices. Putting it bluntly, anyone who says he didn't either doesn't know the facts or isn't telling the truth.
The Auburn baseball team got off to a most impressive start over the weekend, sweeping a three-game series from highly regarded Virginia Commonwealth. The Tigers' pitching was dominating. The offense was good if not spectacular.
Beating VCU, of course, is a lot different than beating LSU or Mississippi State, but from the looks of things, this Auburn team will have a chance to make some noise in the SEC West.
Until next time…