Hayes vs. Daniels a matchup of shooting stars

Four of the SEC's top seven scorers will be on the floor when No. 19 Georgia plays host to No. 24 Auburn Saturday.

The most decisive showdown may be the one-on-one battles between Auburn's Marquis Daniels, the second-leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, and Georgia's Jarvis Hayes, the defending scoring champion who currently ranks third.

It's possible another player may steal the spotlight from the showdown between the stars at small forward, and it's clear neither team is a one-man show.

Auburn (15-3 overall, 4-1 SEC) leads the Western Division and is coming off its first conference loss at Kentucky Wednesday night.  

While the versatile Daniels ranks among the league leaders in scoring (18.6 points per game), rebounds (7.0), steals (2.67 per game, first in the SEC), assists (3.78) and field goal percentage (.562), Auburn also boasts a productive complement at forward.  Marco Killingsworth, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, ranks seventh in the league in scoring (15.4) and adds 6.8 rebounds. Also, center Kyle Davis leads the league with 5.22 blocked shots.  

Still, Daniels has the attention of the Bulldogs.  

"Marquis does it all,'' said senior Ezra Williams. "He's top five in like five categories in the SEC. He's a great player and he's leading their basketball team right now. We're going to have to do a great job on him, as well as the other guys. We can't allow him to do as much as he has been doing.''  

Hayes also has a strong supporting cast.  

Williams, who scored 29 points in Georgia's 81-76 overtime victory over Tennessee Wednesday night, is fourth in the league with 17.9 points per game. Point guard Rashad Wright has 25 assists with only  one turnover through four conference games for Georgia (11-4 overall, 3-1 SEC), and forwards Chris Daniels and Steve Thomas provide more balance to the SEC's top scoring attack.  

The marquee matchup will be Hayes against Marquis Daniels, two players with attractive NBA futures who rank among the early favorites for SEC Player of the Year honors.  

"That will be a tremendous matchup,'' said Georgia coach Jim Harrick. "Both of them are top players in the league.''  Added Harrick: "I don't know if he'll guard Jarvis or not, but Jarvis will guard him.''  

Auburn may have guard Derrick Bird assigned to Hayes in man-to-man schemes, but there should be opportunities for Hayes to test his 3-point shot against Daniels.  

Hayes and Williams make Georgia the SEC's leader in 3-point shooting percentage (.432). With  Marquis Daniels setting the standard as the SEC's steals leader, Auburn paces the SEC in 3-point defense (.299).  

Two years ago, when Jarvis Hayes and his twin brother Jonas Hayes were redshirts following their transfers to Georgia from Western Carolina, Daniels scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Bulldogs in Athens. Georgia won 85-80 in overtime, but Harrick remembers Daniels "just killed us.''  

Last year in Auburn, Daniels was held to 14 points by Chris Daniels, Georgia's defensive specialist,  in the Tigers' 75-72 win. Saturday, Chris Daniels is expected to be assigned to Killingsworth, leaving Jarvis Hayes on Marquis Daniels.  

Hayes, an underrated defensive player, admits Daniels will be a difficult challenge.  

"It's tough, but I welcome it,'' Hayes said. "I want to play against guys like him night in and night out. It will be tough guarding him.''  

Williams scored a career-high 30 points against Auburn two years ago.  

"Hayes and Williams take Georgia to the next level, and they've got a great supporting cast,'' said Auburn coach Cliff Ellis.  "Without a doubt, I think this is the best team we will have played thus far.''  

Last year in Auburn, Hayes, Williams and Daniels were overshadowed by an altercation that led to  Thomas and Davis being ejected with 2:01 left to play. Just over a minute late, Harrick was ejected.  Harrick said he doesn't expect the emotions of last year's game to be a factor Saturday.  

"That game is over,'' Harrick said. "Young people live in the present. They don't live in the past.''  

Said Hayes: "There is no carryover. This is a different year. We put everything that happened in the past.''

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