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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Men's hoops: Auburn hammers Georgia 82-63

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn finally figured out a way to avoid a season-long trend of losing close games down the stretch: don't play a close game.

The Tigers built an early lead and, for once, maintained it throughout an 82-63 victory against Georgia at Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night.

"We have played our best basketball here in conference play," said Auburn coach Jeff Lebo, excluding a half against Tennessee and a half against Vanderbilt. "We've really done some nice things. We haven't always been rewarded with a 'W' when we've had our chances to get some, but their attitude has been good."

Forward Lucas Hargrove matched a season-high 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Auburn (12-12, 3-6 SEC), which won by double digits for the first time in league play.

"It was real fun," Hargrove said. "This was about the time last year that we got on a roll, and hopefully that can happen again. Sometimes we work real hard in practice and then sometimes itdoesn't show up in a game. I think it showed tonight."

The Tigers got a balanced attack, getting 16 points from Tay Waller, 12 from DeWayne Reed and 11 from Frankie Sullivan.

Travis Leslie led Georgia (10-12, 2-7 SEC) with 19 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort.

Auburn led by as many as 13 in the first half and went into the locker room with a 45-36 advantage. Hargrove presented a matchup problem for Georgia's bigger defenders with his quickness away from the basket. He scored 16 points before the break on 8-for-14 shooting.

"Sometimes you just get that feeling that you can't miss," said Hargrove, who was four points shy of his career high.

Auburn still went inside on its fair share of occasions, holding a 32-18 advantage in points in the paint.

Bulldogs forward Trey Thompkins, who entered the game second in the league averaging 17.5 points a game, was saddled with foul trouble from the start. The Tigers took advantage, getting the ball early to forward Brendon Knox, who scored eight of his nine points in the first half and twice converted three-point plays.

The Tigers pulled away in the second half with a strong defensive effort. Georgia, which dropped to 0-8 in road games, shot just 36 percent for the game and committed 19 turnovers.

Sullivan scored all 11 of his points after halftime and fouled Thompkins out on a hustle play with 8:33 left, stealing the ball under the Georgia hoop and inducing the call when he scrapped with Thompkins on the floor. Thompkins final line: six points, four rebounds and six turnovers in 13 minutes.

Auburn got a lift off the bench from walk-on point guard Josh Wallace, who spelled Reed for 14 minutes and finished with two points, three assists and no turnovers.

It was a welcome win for an Auburn group that has taken its lumps this season.

"They've come back to practice without whining or complaining," Lebo said. "They're working hard. I like the group and I like my team. I really do. It's nice to see them get a good one tonight."

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