AUBURN -- It looked, for a moment, like whatever was said in the home locker room at halftime lit a fire under Auburn. It started the second on an absolute tear, making 9 of its first 10 shots.
But offense wasn’t the Tigers’ problem on Tuesday. They shot 48.3 percent from the floor despite that slow start, and 55.9 percent after halftime.
No, it was their defense that cost them most in an 91-86 loss to Georgia. The visitors hit 12 of their first 17 shots to open the second half, and that built them a large enough cushion to hang on and split the season series.
It marks the third time in 10 SEC games this season that the Tigers have lost despite scoring 85 or more points.
"You should be able to win those games," coach Bruce Pearl said.
Here are three things we learned:
1. 'We were not ready to play'
That was Pearl's assessment. He said that was the first time that had been the case for Auburn (10-9, 4-6 SEC) this season.
The Tigers needed that torrid 9-for-10 start just to get back within three points of Georgia (11-6, 4-6) after a listless first half in which they shot 38.5% and trailed by as many as 10.
"That’s on the coach. I’ve got to own that and I will," Pearl said. "Georgia outplayed us. We didn’t lose. They outplayed us. But the thing I talked about after the Baylor game was, if we didn’t make a few adjustments, this was gong to continue. We didn’t make those adjustments."
2. Georgia adjusted to Auburn’s block-party defense
One of the stories of the Tigers’ 95-77 rout in Athens on Jan. 13 was the season-high 14 blocked shots they recorded. But they blocked only half that total in the rematch.
It’s not because the Bulldogs shied away from the paint. They did not – 44 of their 67 shot attempts were layups or dunks. And it looked like they spent the past few weeks practicing nothing but ball fakes, because Auburn bit on a lot of them – Georgia hit nearly 60% of those shots for 52 points in the paint, which is the most the Tigers have allowed since an early season loss to No. 1 Gonzaga.
The visitors also turned 13 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points and outrebounded Auburn 40-32 overall.
"You know, I think they came out just being more physical," forward Chris Moore said. "I kind of feel like they wanted it more than we did. I kind of feel like we took it for granted tonight after beating them by a good amount at home. Just not taking teams seriously, that's kind of the karma you get."
3. Have to take better advantage of turnovers
The Tigers might not have forced many Georgia misses (the visitors shot 48.6 percent from the floor), but they did get some stops. They forced 13 turnovers. Nine of them were steals, including a few impressive ones by Devan Cambridge in the open court.
But the home team didn’t cash in on them – they led to just 10 points on the other end. The most egregious miss came from Cambridge, who missed a wide-open dunk after tipping a ball to himself a la Ricardo Louis on The Prayer at Jordan-Hare.
Auburn turned the ball over 14 times. Georgia turned those into 13 points. In a game that ended up being decided by just five, every opportunity matters.