Dawgs Thrash Tigers

ATLANTA -- Georgia took out 12 months' worth of frustration on Auburn on Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the SEC Tournament.

After a one-year absence due to a school-imposed postseason ban, the Bulldogs returned to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and whipped the Tigers 73-59.

"I knew the seniors were very, very anxious, and I was a little worried about that," Coach Dennis Felton said. "I didn't want them to get out of sorts because of that."

Turns out he had no reason to worry. The Tigers (14-14) had seven turnovers before they scored their first point, and Georgia led 24-6 after a Chris Daniels 3-pointer with 11:42 left in the first half.

"(The seniors) were as focused and purposeful and consistently driven to keep playing well and being productive as in any game I've ever coached," Felton said.

It was Georgia's first win in the SEC Tournament since 1998, and it moved the Bulldogs (16-12) into the second round of the tournament, where they will face No. 8 Kentucky (23-4) for the third time this season. Georgia beat the Wildcats twice during the regular season.

For all the fire the seniors showed Thursday, it was freshman Levi Stukes who led the Bulldogs. He hit 8 of 12 3-point attempts and scored a career-high 25 points.

"That game would not have been as easy as it was had he not been on fire," Felton said. "Levi is a good shooter and he's been a good shooter all year long, but nobody comes into a game expecting to go 8 of 12. That's an extraordinary performance."

Stukes' eight threes tied the SEC Tournament single-game record of Vanderbilt's Rick Jones and Florida's Greg Stolt and was just one short of G.G. Smith's school record.

"He was on fire tonight," senior forward Jonas Hayes said. "Get an ice bag on his shoulder. With him shooting like that, you see a whole world of opportunities."

Daniels took the most advantage of those opportunities by tallying 18 points and 13 rebounds for his first double-double since Jan. 3. He also scored his 1,000th career point, becoming the 34th Georgia player to do so.

The Bulldogs pushed their lead to 20 points at halftime as Rashad Wright hit Georgia's eighth 3-pointer as the first half buzzer sounded. The victory avenged a 57-54 regular season loss Georgia suffered in Auburn. In that game, Wright missed what would have been the tying shot as time expired.

Overall Thursday, Georgia hit 13 3-pointers and shot 54.2 percent from behind the arc. The Bulldogs also outrebounded the Tigers 39-30. Auburn entered the game second in the SEC in rebounding margin at plus-five.

"Outrebounding them by nine was probably the biggest accomplishment of the game," Felton said.

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