By Charles Goldberg
ATHENS, Ga. -- Cinmeon Bowers wasn't your prototypical point guard on Saturday, but this hasn't been a prototypical year for Bruce Pearl and his lineup.
The Auburn coach suspended leading scorer and assist leader Kareem Canty for an indefinite period, announced he had moved Bowers, his big forward, to guard and hoped for the best.
Bowers produced a double-double, but Georgia beat Auburn 65-55 in Stegeman Coliseum.
"I thought he did a really good job," Pearl said. "He's a tough cover. He's tough to keep out of the lane. But it limits our playbook."
Canty moved to point guard early in the year after Tahj Shamsid-Deen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. But Saturday, with two guards hurt, one who isn't eligible and now one suspended, Pearl turned to the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Bowers to direct traffic.
"It felt good out there, but we've just got to make shots," Bowers said. "Now, I just have to get everybody into the offense. We played great defense today, we just didn't make shots."
Bowers finished with 12 points, and showed he was willing to play inside. He finished with 13 rebounds. "I'd rather have the win," Bowers said. The Tigers otherwise had trouble on offense, missing 18 straight shots at one point while shooting just 17 percent with 10½ minutes left to play. The Tigers finished strong, cutting into a 25-point second-half deficit and holding Georgia to 35 percent shooting.
"Coach Pearl just wants us to play hard no matter the score," Bowers said.
"I thought," Pearl said, "we all stepped up and played hard, and I'm very proud of our kids for doing that. We didn't quit and we represented Auburn."
But on offense it was "OK, here's your chance. Step up and make shots in a big game, and we didn't," Pearl said.
The depth was such an issue that Auburn had one current walk-on, and a former walk-on, on the court at the same time barely four minutes into the game. The roster got thinner when Horace Spencer fouled out with 7:35 left.
Auburn struggled without Canty, and without the injured Shamsid-Deen and T.J. Dunans for that matter. The Tigers shot 13.3 percent from the field in the first 12 minutes.
Bowers got his ninth double-double of the season with a no-doubt jam with 2:33 remaining.
Bowers stood tall inside in the first half, grabbing nine rebounds and scoring eight points. But it was a struggle for both teams to score, and only a rush ran the score up to 31-22, Georgia, at halftime. Auburn trailed by 25 with 6:38 left.
Auburn fell to 9-13 overall and 3-7 in the Southeastern Conference heading to a Bruce Pearl homecoming at Tennessee, where he once coached, on Tuesday night. Georgia improved to 13-8 overall and 6-4 in the league.
Pearl said he suspended Canty because of his behavior.
"We're coaches and we're also parents. Kareem's effort and his attitude, and his frustration level over our team's lack of success, has caused him to behave in a way that is unacceptable," Pearl said. "Just like a parent, when they misbehave, you have to punish them. He's suspended indefinitely. He'll work on other aspects to get back. He's eligible, he's in good standing."
But Pearl said Canty won't practice with the team.
Earlier, Pearl said Canty "had some strong moments for our team this season. He has demonstrated that at the highest level of competition, he can win his matchup.
"However, his effort and attitude have been extremely inconsistent, which led to actions and behavior that are unacceptable. He will step away from the team for a while and may return later in the season. He is suspended indefinitely."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine