No. 13 Auburn will travel to Athens, Georgia, tonight to face off against the Bulldogs for the second time this season. Earlier in the year, the Tigers defeated the Bulldogs 82-60 inside Auburn Arena.
“It seems like it has been a while since we have played Georgia,”said Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. “Georgia, the last time we played them, was coming off having beaten Memphis at Memphis, which was a great win for them and then having lost at home to Kentucky after being up about a dozen at halftime so Georgia came in here playing well. We played well in that game.”
Currently, Auburn is 9-3 in the Southeastern Conference and 22-3 overall. The Tigers went 1-1 last week with a 95-91 overtime win over Alabama at home and a 73-85 loss at Missouri.
This season Auburn is 4-3 when away from Auburn Arena and its opponent Wednesday night is 10-4 when playing at home.
“Kind of like Missouri, it’s a tough place to play, hard to win on the road, but if we’re going to be in this conference championship race we have to win this game,” Pearl said.
In SEC play, the Bulldogs are 2-10, with an overall record of 12-13. Georgia lost both of its games last week, with a 69-74 loss to Texas A&M and a 59-75 loss to South Carolina.
However, Auburn heads to Stegeman Coliseum with one its top players still questionable. True freshman forward Isaac Okoro didn't travel with the team to Missouri due to a hamstring pull that occurred during the Alabama game and up until that game, Okoro had started every game for the Tigers this season.
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“Well, you know, Isaac is, he’s one of the best players in all of college basketball,” Pearl said. "We talked about where we’d miss Isaac. And Missouri scored 85 points. A team that averages 65, 66 points scored 85 points. So I think it’s pretty obvious where we missed him. Not only for his individual coverage of his own player but his ability to rebound, take charges, get vertical. He’s a great player. He just affects plays.”
Okoro is set to travel with the team Wednesday, but has yet to practice.
“Isaac did not practice with us yesterday," Pearl said. "Our anticipation is that he will travel. I don’t know what his status will be for the game yet.”
Okoro was a key part of Auburn’s win over Georgia back in January. He kept Georgia freshman, and future lottery pick, Anthony Edwards off balance all afternoon. Edwards finished with 18 points, three rebounds and three assists but shot 2 of 9 from 3-point land.
The former 5-star is averaging 19 points a game, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists. His season highs are 32 points in Georgia’s loss to Florida, 15 rebounds in the Bulldogs’ win over the Aggies and four assists in six different games.
“We did a really good job overall on Anthony Edwards,” Pearl said. “I mean, he was a huge focus for us as far as the scout was concerned. But I think what makes Georgia such a dangerous team is they’ve got lots of different pieces.”
In the two's first matchup, Auburn was led by senior guard Samir Doughty who had 17 points in that game and also got help from its bench, who accounted for 34 points in the win.
A win over Georgia is much needed for the Tigers, who are currently in second place in the conference, behind first-place Kentucky.The Wildcats defeated LSU 79-76 Tuesday night to improve to 11-2 in SEC play.
“Strong statement with seven games left (six left in regular season), but I have always kind of kept it real with my team,” Pearl said. “LSU will play at Kentucky (Tuesday night) and Kentucky is either going to come out of that game with a one-game lead on the field or we’re back to being tied. We have got to go to Lexington (February 29) and that’s going to be a real challenge.”
Auburn will tip-off against Georgia at 6 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
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