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Roberts leads Bulldogs in upset of No. 22 Auburn
ATHENS — Georgia guard Terry Roberts left the court with a smile on his face on Wednesday.
The Bradley transfer scored a game-high 26 points for the Bulldogs in a 77-64 upset over No. 22 Auburn. He also dished out two assists and had three steals against the Tigers.
Georgia head coach Mike White was proud of Roberts and his performance in the SEC opener.
"The game has slowed (down) for him a little bit, as it does for most point guards. It’s surprising it happened in the first SEC game as opposed to the seventh or third,” White said. “Hopefully, again, there’s not a step backward and then two steps forward. For him, he played really well. That is a high-level point guard game in this league against a high-level defense. Hopefully, he’s got a few more of those in him."
Roberts was the floor general on a night when the Bulldogs only trailed once, which was in the first half. They got out to a 5-0 lead in the first few minutes and continued to build on it.
Auburn was able to tie the game up at 21-21 after an 11-point run later on in the first half. Roberts then hit a pair of free throws to give Georgia a 23-21 edge, although the Tigers regained a 24-23 lead over the Bulldogs at the 4:12 mark. However, it didn’t last long.
Auburn’s advantage dwindled as Roberts had a four-point swing - with a made free-throw and a 3-pointer - as Georgia regained the lead. The Bulldogs’ defense was stingy, limiting the Tigers to only seven more points from that point on while they added 13.
Georgia led Auburn 37-30 at the half as Roberts and Kario Oquendo combined for 23 total points. The Bulldogs displayed a lot of confidence in the first half and never hesitated. They threw the first punch and responded when the Tigers went on a run of their own.
Georgia forward Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe felt as if his team displayed plenty of grit.
“It took a lot of physicality and mental toughness,” Moncrieffe said. “They’re a really good team, a really physical team. As you saw in the first three minutes, I think they got five ‘O’ (offensive) boards. That was our focus coming into this week - matching that physicality and intensity. They’re definitely going to make a run and hit some tough shots. That’s what we had to do to win this one … but coach (Mike) White has just been preaching, stay composed and stay poised. That’s just what we try to do in our huddles.”
Auburn was able to cut Georgia’s lead down to four points several times during the second half.
A pivotal point in the game was when the Bulldogs led 57-53 with 7:58 remaining, and they responded to the Tigers’ quick run with a 9-0 spurt to push the lead back to 13 points.
Justin Hill was able to knock down a 3-pointer and Braelen Bridges added a long layup. Roberts managed to find the basket on the next possession and went to the line after an Auburn turnover. The senior guard then nailed the shots from the charity stripe.
Georgia was able to keep the Tigers at a distance and close out the night with a victory.
White hopes the win over No. 22 Auburn can be a ‘confidence’ boost for his Bulldogs, especially after they were picked to finish second-to-last in the SEC pre-season rankings.
“It’s big,” White said with a smile. “Hopefully, we gain confidence from it, and I want our guys to feel good about it. I want our guys to celebrate this win. Any win in this league is very difficult. We just beat a ranked opponent. Our guys have been through a lot. I want them to feel good about it. That said, let’s feel good about it for about two hours because here comes another, and another, and then another. This is a grueling league.”
Georgia played well offensively, shooting 45.3 percent from the field. The Bulldogs’ defense also smothered Auburn all night, causing the Tigers to shoot a season-low of 34.8 percent.
Auburn is known for its physicality and ability to grab boards off the glass. The Tigers only out-rebounded the Bulldogs by five, which was a testament to their toughness all game long.
White felt like his team’s effort matched that of Auburn’s in the contest.
"The ball bounced to us a couple of times and we got away with their 21 offensive rebounds," White said. "Twenty-one offensive rebounds could have been 24 or 25, but were we flying around and trying? Yeah, we really were. I thought our guys played incredibly hard. That’s what it’s going to take night in and night out to be competitive in this league. … They just attack you in so many different spots with size, athleticism and (a lot of) tenacity. Their ball pressure and disruption defensively were a big factor as well.”
The first-year Georgia head coach added that Roberts played with a lot of ‘poise’ in the victory.
“I thought Terry (Roberts) played fantastic. He played with poise and made good decisions,” he said. “Considering the defensive prowess of Auburn, I thought Terry blossomed.”
Roberts was happy with the victory, but he was ready to move on to the next game after the win.
“It was exciting, but we have to move on to the next one,” Roberts said. “We have a big one upcoming on Saturday (against Florida), so we have to get ready for that one, for sure.”
Georgia (11-3, 0-2) will face the Gators (7-7, 0-2 SEC), which is White’s former team, in Gainesville at 1 p.m. EST.
Here is the video from Roberts’ post-game interview: