My story was on Earnest Ross, who scored a career-high 30 points for Auburn (8-14, 1-8 SEC). Here it is:
ATHENS, Ga. — Earnest Ross is Auburn’s leading scorer but hadn’t played like it the last two weeks, struggling to find his shot and contributing to the Tigers’ offensive woes.
The guard broke out of that slump Saturday, however, scoring a career-high 30 points to lead the Tigers to the brink of an upset in an 81-72 overtime loss to Georgia at the Stegeman Coliseum.
“You don’t expect that every night, but he’s capable of having nights like that,” Auburn coach Tony Barbee said.
Ross, whose previous career-high was 22 against Middle Tennessee in November, made five of Auburn’s nine 3-pointers and finished 12-for-18 from the floor, the highlight of what was the Tigers’ eighth loss in nine SEC games.
“Coach kept telling me to just shoot the ball every chance that I got,” said Ross, who has topped 20 points five times in his college career. “Every opening I had I had a chance to shoot it and hopefully it went in.”
His biggest buckets came at the end of regulation. Ross’ layup with 13.7 seconds left pulled Auburn (8-15) within two. He then stole a lazy Georgia inbounds pass near midcourt, drove it to the hoop and converted it into another layup that tied the game at 67, forcing overtime.
“You can tell (he was hot), because he was going to the hole, getting fouled, finishing at the rim,” Tigers forward Kenny Gabriel said. “When he has games like that, that’s when we can all get going.”
Ross scored all five of the Auburn's points in the extra session, hitting a 3-pointer with 3:13 to play that gave the Tigers their first lead since the first half at 72-71.
Auburn went cold after that, however. Georgia (15-6, 5-4 SEC) scored the final 10 points to pull away and avoid a bracket busting loss.
“I was just trying to play hard and just give us a chance to win the game,” Ross said. “Everybody gets a chance to contribute each thing and if we all could have contributed a little bit more we could have come out with the win.”
The performance was a long time coming for Ross. Despite topping 20 points twice in conference play, the 6-foot-5 guard had struggled with his shot of late.
He scored 15 points at Arkansas and 10 at South Carolina but did it mostly at the free throw line, going a meager 5-for-22 from the field. Ross finished with only 7 points on 3-of-8 shooting in Auburn’s lackluster effort against Tennessee on Thursday.
“It’s no secret that he’s one of the few guys on this team who can get going offensively, and he’s been a little quiet lately,” Barbee said. “And that’s hurt us.”
Nothing was lacking Saturday, however. Ross did a bit of everything, finishing with a team-high seven rebounds and three of Auburn’s 12 steals to nearly give the Tigers their second straight road victory.
“Don’t know what he ate for breakfast or what he did in the warmup line,” Barbee said, “but hopefully he can duplicate it the rest of the way.”