Georgia Looks for Signature Home Win Against #13 Auburn
In January of 2019, Tom Crean and his Georgia Bulldogs found a way to knock of the Texas Longhorns, 98-88. That game was a swing in momentum towards the future of Georgia Basketball, despite the 11-21 record to show for Crean's first year.
Here in year two, Crean is in need of another home win like the one against Texas. A win against Auburn can boost the morale of the fans and give recruits a glimpse of what is to come for this program. With the season dwindling down, there are fewer opportunities to do so, which is why the match up with a highly ranked Auburn team means so much to the Georgia fan base.
These two teams last met up in the beginning of January in Auburn Arena. A poor shooting performance by Georgia and a lack of rebounding led to the Bulldogs being routed, 82-60.
However, the last time these two teams played each other in Athens, the score was a lot closer than many expected. This could lead to some much need optimism for Georgia fans heading into Wednesday's game.
In the previous contest between the two squads in the Classic City, a last-second three-pointer by eventual first-round pick, Chuma Okeke was able to fend off Georgia, as Auburn won, 78-75. In that game, Georgia outdid Auburn on the boards, as well as shooting percentage, which was able to keep the Bulldogs in the game. A similar performance combined with crowd intensity could lead to Georgia coming out on top, and winning their 3rd SEC game of the year.
While Auburn's season has been completely different in comparison to Georgia's rocky one, Vegas' odds see this to be a lot closer than you may think, with Auburn being considered a 3-point favorite. On top of that, ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives Georgia a respectable 25.2% chance to win this game.
The key factor ahead of this matchup is the status of Auburn's freshman phenom, Isaac Okoro. Okoro, averaging 13.1 PPG, was out against Missouri this past Saturday as Auburn was handled 85-73. Okoro is a projected Top-5 pick in Bleacher Report's most recent NBA Mock Draft. It is known that Okoro will travel with the team to Athens, but his availability for the game is unknown at this time.
Regardless of whether Okoro plays in Wednesday's game or not, Georgia will have to have Anthony Edwards put up the numbers that he is capable of if the Bulldogs want to have a shot at upsetting the #13 Auburn Tigers. For him, that means creating open looks from outside and using his control to attack the basket. Edwards put up a well-earned 18 points on Okoro's defense the first go-around. But, with the uncertainty in Okoro's health at the moment, we could see Edwards pop off for 20+ points and 10+ rebounds. That is if Edwards has fully recovered from the flu, which he has been dealing with for over a week now.
Georgia has shown potential on the defensive side, especially with the efforts in the post from freshmen, Toumani Camara and Mike Peake. Tom Crean's biggest need for this game is to find a combination that can eliminate opportunities for Austin Wiley, as well as cutting down on second-chance points. The Bulldogs will also need to focus on limiting turnovers that lead to transition points. By taking these precautions, Georgia can find itself in a position to keep this one close, or better yet, come out on top.
As mentioned earlier, a freakish performance is needed from Anthony Edwards to give the Bulldogs a chance. And it most cases, when "Ant-Man" performs to his capabilities, Georgia comes out on top. Realistically, to beat a potential Top-5 seed like the Auburn Tigers, Tom Crean will need strong efforts across the board. That means above-average performances from contributors like Tyree Crump, Jordan Harris, and Tye Fagan on top of big performances from Rayshaun Hammonds and Sahvir Wheeler.
It's hard to beat a ranked team without an effort from the whole team. The burden will be placed on Tom Crean to see if he can get his team motivated to beat a Top-15 team, and build momentum for the basketball program headed forward.