March 8, 2007
ATLANTA (AP) -Levi Stukes scored 22 points, Takais Brown added 19 and Georgia set up a crucial game with Florida by beating Auburn 80-65 Thursday night in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Three other players were in double figures for the balanced Bulldogs, who finished .500 in conference play and are still holding out hope of making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
The Bulldogs (18-12) likely need at least one more quality victory, but at least they have a chance to pull it off. Georgia advanced to play in Friday's quarterfinals against defending national champion Florida, which won the regular-season title in a runaway and already has a pair of victories over the Bulldogs.
At the start of the game, Georgia struggled just to get the ball inbounds. The Bulldogs turned it over two straight times after Auburn baskets, forcing coach Dennis Felton to call a quick timeout.
He got things sorted out, and Georgia didn't have much trouble beating the Tigers' full-court press the rest of the night.
Stukes got the Bulldogs rolling, scoring 14 of his team's first 25 points. He made 4-of-6 from beyond the 3-point arc during the spurt, including two straight that put Georgia ahead to stay and prompted Tigers coach Jeff Lebo to signal for a timeout.
When Auburn started focusing on Stukes, his teammates picked up the slack.
Brown made 9-of-12 shots from the field, most of them with power moves on the inside, and matched his career high with 13 rebounds. Terrance Woodbury and Billy Humphrey both hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep the Tigers honest on the outside, finishing with 13 and 11 points respectively.
Sundiata Gaines also scored 11.
The Bulldogs stretched their lead to 41-31 by halftime and put the game away by scoring 10 of the first 12 points after the break. Auburn never seriously threatened the rest of the way and Stukes finished 6-of-11 from outside the stripe.
The game was much cleaner than the foulfest in Athens last month. A total of 60 fouls were called in Georgia's 86-79 victory over the Tigers, which resulted in a staggering 70 free throws - tied for the third-most in SEC history.