Twenty minutes before tip-off, Auburn announced its leading scorer Bryce Brown would miss the clash at Georgia with a shoulder injury, leaving the Tigers shorthanded.
That was the only negative news the Tigers would receive Saturday.
Fueled by point guard Jared Harper’s career day, No. 8 Auburn rolled to a 78-61 victory over Georgia, earning a season sweep of the Bulldogs for the first time since 1985-86.
"That's what great seasons are made of, so many of these moments," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "To be down Bryce Brown and to have Desean Murray cramp up and to really not be able to go the entire second half is unbelievable.
“We split with (Georgia) in football, and we want to beat these guys every time we play them. They’re a real rival, and to beat them in (Athens) is tough. This gritty team comes here and finds a way to beat a Georgia team that has beaten five top 50 teams already."
Harper tied a career-high with 24 points to go along with seven assists. The Mableton, Georgia, native finished 8-of-13 from the floor and 4-of-7 from three-point range.
“Having a great quarterback like Jared Harper, that makes your team a pretty good offensively efficient,” Pearl said. “When I’m going through things that I like in my play calls, he’s listening very carefully. Jared is calling great games out there. I give him the opportunity to do that, and we work very well together.”
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Auburn used a 7-0 run in the final minutes of the first half to push a two-point lead to a 40-31 halftime lead. Georgia did not get closer than four points in the second half.
The Tigers shot 51 percent (29-of-57) from the floor and 44 percent (11-of-25) from beyond the arc. Auburn scored 25 points off Georgia’s 13 turnovers.
Mustapha Heron scored 19 points for Auburn on 8-of-14 shooting. Starting in place of Brown, Malik Dunbar finished with seven points and six rebounds.
“Mustapha Heron, he just stepped up, and he has that next level,” Pearl said. “And, he’s guarding. He’s engaged.”
After going scoreless in four straight games, freshman Davion Mitchell tallied seven points and two assists against his home-state Bulldogs.
“Jared Harper and Davion were the two best point guards on the floor and they both play for Auburn,” Pearl said.
Head Coach Bruce Pearl celebrates with Jared Harper (1) and Davion Mitchell (10) following a 78-61 victory vs. Georgia. Adam Brasher - Staff Photographer
Georgia (13-11, 4-8) was led by Yante Maten, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds. Juwan Parker and Rayshaun Hammonds scored 14 points for the Bulldogs.
The win marked Auburn’s 10th in SEC play, clinching its first winning record in conference play for the first time since 2008-09.
"I think this is probably one of our best wins of the season," Harper said. "We have people that can step up at all positions. It makes it good for the team and when we get Bryce back, we're going to be even better."
Auburn, which improved to 22-3 overall and 10-2 in the SEC, will return to action on Wednesday as it hosts No. 24 Kentucky. Tip-off inside Auburn Arena is set for 8 p.m. CST on ESPN2.
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