"When I took over, we were going to start practice and go shorter, tougher, harder," Georgia interim coach Pete Herrmann said. "That's what we did in practice, so the slow start really surprised me more than anything. (Auburn) was quicker, they were more confident driving the ball, in all phases. Everything we did defensively was poor."
Auburn had 12 more rebounds than Georgia in the first half, including a 10-4 advantage on the offensive boards, while the Bulldogs couldn't buy a basket on the other end of the court. Georgia began the game 2-of-18 shooting and managed just two points in an 11-minute stretch midway through the half.
A strong second-half comeback kept things close late, but where Georgia couldn't swing the momentum early, Auburn did just enough to keep the Bulldogs at bay late.
"I like the way our team handled the momentum swing," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. "Usually in a swing like that, teams play tight. We did well to stave off their comeback, and it was a good all around effort for us."
It was an all-too-familiar scene for the Bulldogs, who watched similar first-half struggles against Mississippi State and South Carolina put the team behind the 8-ball before a comeback could be mounted, and point guard Dustin Ware said answers are hard to find.
"The attitude three weeks ago against South Carolina, you would think we'd have learned from that and come out tough and aggressive," Ware said.
Just as it did in its previous games, Georgia mustered a relentless second-half comeback. The Bulldogs outscored Auburn 40-26 in the second half behind a far more stout defensive performance and a strong game from Ware, who had 14 points and four assists in the final 20 minutes, but the damage was already done.
Against Florida, senior forward Terrance Woodbury led the charge with 32 points, but he struggled mightily Wednesday, hitting on just 2-of-10 shots, while freshman Trey Thompkins managed just 3-of-13 shooting. Ware was Georgia's only player to score in double digits.
"It's a fact in the game, but I told them, don't get tighter when you're missing shots," Herrmann said. "Everyone misses shots, but you've got to defend and not give up offensive rebounds so that you have a chance if the shots aren't going in."
After the game, Ware said Georgia's veterans immediately encouraged the team to build on the strong second half, but momentum has been hard to keep going for the Bulldogs.
The lessons learned against Florida were quickly forgotten once Auburn's first few shots fell Wednesday, and Herrmann said at some point things need to stick if Georgia hopes to string together any type of lasting success.
"We need to keep putting more consistent minutes together," Herrmann said. "We've got to trust each other and work together and get rid of those long periods of poor play on both ends."