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Tuesday December 18th, 2018 4:57PM

No. 8 Auburn holds out top scorer Brown, beats Georgia 78-61

By The Associated Press

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Auburn's commitment to hard work provided yet another road win — even without top scorer Bryce Brown.

Jared Harper matched his career high by scoring 24 points and No. 8 Auburn showed impressive depth by beating Georgia 78-61 on Saturday to protect their lead in the Southeastern Conference.

Auburn (22-3, 10-2 SEC) improved to 5-1 in conference road games.

Mustapha Heron, who had 19 points, said the Tigers can negate another team's home-court advantage.

"I think just the way we play hard," Heron said. "If you don't come to play hard, I don't think you're going to beat us. I think that's something that travels, playing hard with effort."

Auburn leaned heavily on Harper early in the game. The sophomore from Mableton, Georgia scored 12 consecutive points for the Tigers, including back-to-back 3s for a 17-9 lead. Auburn never relinquished the lead.

Harper also had a game-high seven assists.

Brown, the fifth-leading scorer in the SEC with an average of 16.6 points per game, was held out with a right shoulder injury suffered in the first half of the Tigers' loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday night. Coach Bruce Pearl said his Tigers were "terrifically short-handed" without Brown.

"You could see just that guys weren't intimidated," Pearl said. "They were prepared. It was the next man up. The guard play for Auburn was terrific."

Junior Malik Dunbar started for Brown and had seven points.

Yante Maten led Georgia (13-11, 4-8) with 20 points. Juwan Parker and Rayshaun Hammonds each had 14 points. The Bulldogs have lost three straight and six of their last seven, putting more heat on coach Mark Fox.

Fox said "our defense and our rebounding have just disappeared on us" for the third straight game and then acknowledged it was his job to fix the problem.

"It all falls on the coaching staff," Fox said. "It all falls on me. I'll take 100 percent of the responsibility, 100, OK? It's totally on the coaches to make sure we have a scheme ready to go."

Harper and Heron combined to make 6 of 11 3-pointers.

The Tigers' defense kept pressure on the ball, forcing bad shots and 13 turnovers. Auburn held a 24-9 advantage in points off turnovers and a 15-4 edge in fast-break points.

Freshman backup Davion Mitchell was a key to the perimeter defense.

"We just had too many turnovers that definitely led to their offensive transition in getting to the rim," Maten said.

Auburn led only 53-46 before a three-point play by Heron, following by Davion Mitchell's 3-point shot, quickly pushed the lead back to double figures.

Chuma Okeke and Dunbar hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 67-51 lead with 6:11 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

Auburn: Auburn has four scorers in double figures for the season compared to only one for Georgia, and made good use of that depth to overcome Brown's absence. Auburn, in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 7, 2000, needed the win to avoid a big drop in the next poll.

Georgia: The Bulldogs struggled to remain poised against Auburn's defensive pressure. Maten, Teshaun Hightower and Tyree Crump shot air balls in the first half. ... The losing streak has dropped Georgia from NCAA Tournament contention and placed pressure on Fox, who has taken the Bulldogs to only two NCAA appearances in his first eight seasons.

GEORGIA ON THEIR MIND

Harper, Brown, Mitchell, Churma Okeke, who had six points, and Anfernee McLemore, who had six points, all signed with Auburn from Georgia high schools.

"It's an important game for us recruiting because half of our roster is from Georgia," Pearl said. "The game matters to our fans because of the length of the rivalry in all sports. It feels satisfying to be able to come in here and get it."

UP NEXT

Auburn: Hosts Kentucky on Wednesday.

Georgia: Visits Florida on Wednesday.

___

More AP college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
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