KT Harrell led Auburn again Saturday
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Bruce Pearl and his players stood in the main lobby in Auburn Arena after Saturday's game, signing autographs, posing for photos and thanking the faithful for being so loyal during a year of change for this basketball team.
Auburn's new basketball coach says he's disappointed the Tigers haven't won more games in this, his first season, but said better days were in store. He almost watched Auburn fulfill that promise Saturday, but a final shot missed at the buzzer in a 64-61 loss to Georgia in the final regular-season game for both teams.
Auburn moves on to the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville, where it will play Mississippi State in the first round at 6 p.m. Wednesday. State beat Auburn 78-71 on Jan. 21.
"We can't put our heads down now. We'll continue to scrap," said Auburn guard KT Harrell.
Pearl said his team will play on there, hoping to find the few more points that didn't happen in Tuesday's two-point loss to Missouri and the three-point loss to Georgia.
"The only thing I've been able to accomplish is I've been able to teach them to compete," Pearl said.
Pearl said he was appreciative of the 9,121 fans who showed up for Senior Day in the fourth sellout this season.
"The support," Harrell said, "has been unbelievable this year."
Pearl said his program and the fans "are in this together, so therefore our fans have been seeing this all year long. There's nothing really new. They were hopeful for more. And yet, I think they appreciate the way we're competing. We're in control of the game the whole way. It was a great atmosphere."
-- Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) March 7, 2015
Georgia enhanced its NCAA chances by improving to 20-10 overall and 11-7 in the SEC, barely escaping its second loss to the Tigers this season. Auburn fell to 12-19 overall and 4-12 in the league.
The game was tied until Charles Mann hit two free throws with 1:32 remaining for a 62-60 Georgia lead.
With 5.8 seconds left, Auburn's Cinmeon Bowers' first free throw try rolled off the front rim. He made the second one to cut it to a 1-point game. Georgia's J.J. Frazier hit two free throws with 4.9 seconds left for a three-point lead.
Harrell's contested final short came up short.
It was Senior Day for Harrell, Malcom Canada, K.C. Ross-Miller and Antoine Mason, though Mason was not in attendance following the funeral of his father, former NBA standout Anthony Mason, on Friday.
Fans nonetheless gave Antoine Mason a standing ovation when his name was announced during the Senior Day ceremonies. Auburn then had a moment of silence before tipoff to remember Mason's father.
Georgia led for all of one minute, 31 seconds in the first half, but the Bulldogs still managed to lead at halftime, 31-28. Harrell was already showing the Auburn way by then with 10 points that included a pair of 3-pointers in quick succession. He finished with a game-high 24 points, increasing his SEC scoring lead.
The discussion before the game was whether Harrell should win first team All-SEC honors.
When it was over, Georgia coach Mark Fox said, "I already voted for him first team. He's a great player.
Georgia hit 19-of-21 free throws to counter Harrell in the rematch. Auburn hit 10-of-18, staying out of harm's way by firing up 29 3-pointers. The Tigers hit nine of them.
Joining Harrell in double figures were Bowers and Ross-Miller, with 11 each. Frazier led Georgia with 16 points.
Auburn will now head to Nashville, hopeful for to make some noise, looking for extended stay.
"We'll pack a lot of clothes," Pearl said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter:Follow @AUGoldMine