Dawgs Take Tigers by a Dozen

ATHENS - Strange things happened Saturday afternoon in Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia's Levi Stukes made an unexpected return to the lineup, freshman Sundiata Gaines looked like Mark Price at the foul line, and, most oddly of all, the Bulldogs won.

Georgia (8-15, 2-10 SEC) got its second win since Dec. 28 by beating off-target Auburn 57-45 in front of an announced crowd of 7,879.

"We've definitely been in a little drought here so it feels good to win," center Dave Bliss said. "It feels a lot better, that goes without saying."

Coach Dennis Felton added, "It's two different worlds."

In the opening minutes, it seemed no one wanted to win the game. Neither team made a field goal in the first four minutes, 45 seconds.

Auburn's Kyle Derozan hit the game's first bucket with 15:14 remaining to tie the score at 2-2. That score didn't change for another two and half minutes.

"I told my team, 'As long as it's 2-2, we're right in there,'" Stukes said.

It was Stukes who finally got Georgia going. He hadn't played since Feb. 6 due to a stress fracture in his right foot. Team doctors told him the injury would take six-to-eight weeks to heal, and Saturday was just Day 13 of his rehab.

He entered the game with 15:31 left in the first half and made Georgia's first basket when he hit a 3-pointer with 12:49 left in the half to put the Bulldogs up 5-2. He finished as the Bulldogs' leading scorer with 15 points in just 26 minutes, and he hit 4 of 7 3-point attempts.

"I told my teammates I was going to come out and shoot it, if you see me open, get it to me," he said. "I was feeling it after sitting there for so long."

Stukes was cleared by the team's medical staff during a Wednesday morning shoot around, but told to play only if he could handle the pain.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo was surprised to see Stukes on the floor, he said.

"He was a difference-maker," said Lebo, whose Tigers have now scored their fewest points in back-to-back games since 1951. "He's obviously their best player. He was a big lift for them."

The Tigers (12-13, 3-9 SEC) were coming off a 67-43 loss to Vanderbilt, and they opened the door wide for Georgia's upset by shooting 6 percent from behind the 3-point line (1 of 17).

Auburn entered the game having made 205 3-pointers, more than all but one other SEC team, but its players missed their first 14 against Georgia and didn't hit one until less than five minutes remained.

"I'd like to think we had a lot to do with that," Felton said. "I felt they got very few open looks."

The Tigers' leading scorer, freshman Toney Douglas of Jonesboro, scored four points, 13 below his season average. Auburn was led by Frank Tolbert's 16.

Georgia scored just 24 points in the first half but still led by 10, 24-14.

"We came into this game with the goal of holding them under 50 points so we certainly felt we were well on our way to that at halftime," Felton said.

Auburn closed the gap to as few as four points in the second half, but Georgia held on thanks to timely free throw shooting by Gaines. He came into the game a 50 percent free throw shooter, but made 10 of 14 against Auburn, including 6 of 8 in the final five minutes.

Gaines said the name of Mark Price, the former Georgia Tech and NBA sharpshooter, is only vaguely familiar to him, but he was happy for the comparison.

"I'm going to get fouled," said Gaines, who also had 14 points and a team-high 12 rebounds. "I just have to go to the line and make my free throws."

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