Dawgs whip Tigers

ATLANTA – Georgia held off the NIT for at least one more day.

Behind a timely and bruising effort from junior forward Takais Brown, the Bulldogs beat fellow conference also-ran Auburn 80-65 on Thursday night in the Georgia Dome in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

The victory earned Georgia an opportunity today against Florida, the Eastern Division's top seed and No. 6 team in the country. With a win over the Gators at 7:30 tonight, the Bulldogs might avoid college basketball's second-tier tournament entirely.

In the span of addressing a question about his team's NCAA Tournament hopes after Thursday's win, Georgia head coach Dennis Felton talked himself into believing that a win today will send Georgia to the Big Dance.

"Yeah, I think it'd be a done deal if we managed to beat Florida," he said. "We came here knowing that we could have the opportunity to make that kind of statement if we could manage to beat Auburn. You can't ask for a better opportunity to make the kind of impression we're trying to make on the (selection) committee."

Even with a loss, Felton thinks there's a chance for his team to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia improved to 18-12 with the win over Auburn.

The victory stopped a two-game losing streak for the Bulldogs and was just their second since beating these same Tigers in Athens on Feb. 17.

Topping the Gators will be another matter. Georgia hasn't done that in its last seven tries.

"I think you have to play almost a perfect game to beat Florida, so that's all we have on our mind," said Brown, who finished with 19 points, his highest output in the last 12 games and tied his career-high with 13 rebounds. "We have to put this game behind us and get ready. We're going to start getting ready in the morning, and we just have to be ready by 7:30."

Auburn fell to 17-15 overall and now will have to wait to see if its season is over or if the NIT extends an at-large bid. Tigers coach Jeff Lebo doesn't expect to get that call.

"I doubt it, but I don't know," he said.

Auburn turned the ball over 21 times versus just 13 assists against mostly zone defense from Georgia.

"They played man early and we got some good looks off of that and then they went to the zone and the size of the zone bothered us," Lebo said.

The Tigers were whistled for 20 fouls in the game, while Georgia was called for 11. Lebo was whistled for a technical foul early in the second half.

"I'm not supposed to comment on the officiating so I won't," he said after declining to repeat what he said to get the call.

Georgia led 41-31 at halftime behind a scorching start from Levi Stukes, who set his career high in 3-pointers made (eight) against Auburn in the SEC Tournament in this building three years ago. He hit four in the first 10 minutes and had 14 points at halftime against Auburn and finished with a game-high 22 points.

Brown took over after halftime. Thirteen of his points came after the break. It was his second straight double-double and fourth of the season.

"Maybe it was his best game because he did his most consistent job defensively on top of the things he did on the glass and scoring," Felton said. "I was really, really proud of his alertness and his attention of what we needed to be ready for defensively in all of our zones."

Georgia led by double digits throughout the second half.

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