ATHENS, Ga. — Jared Harper scored 24 points and No. 8 Auburn, playing without top scorer Bryce Brown, showed impressive depth by beating Georgia 78-61 on Saturday.
Auburn leaned heavily on Harper early in the game. Harper scored 12 consecutive points for the Tigers, including back-to-back 3s for a 17-9 lead. Auburn (22-3, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) 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. 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.
Mustapha Heron had 19 points for Auburn. 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.
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.
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 coach Mark Fox, who has taken the Bulldogs to only two NCAA appearances in his first eight seasons.
Auburn: Hosts Kentucky on Wednesday.
Georgia: Visits Florida on Wednesday.