Now ranked No. 2, Auburn ready to take on struggling Georgia
No. 2 Auburn will take the court with its highest ranking in more than two decades when it hosts struggling Georgia in a Southeastern Conference game on Wednesday.
The Tigers (16-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference), who have won 13 consecutive games, moved up two spots in the AP ratings after road wins over then-No. 24 Alabama and Ole Miss last week.
The Tigers received 36 of the 61 first-place votes in the AP poll this week. Gonzaga, the preseason No. 1, received the remaining 25, but the Bulldogs still edged Auburn out for the top spot based on overall voting points, 1,486-1,482.
"Now, I understand that it doesn't mean much right now, but it still makes a very strong statement," Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. "We want to have the No. 1 business school. We want to have the No. 1 engineering school. We want to have the No. 1 football team and gymnastics team. It's just, we're an everything school."
Auburn, which was last ranked No. 2 in November 1999, has never reached the top spot.
However, that could change if the Tigers keep playing as they have been pretty much all season. Auburn's lone blemish on its record is a double-overtime loss to then-No. 22 UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Nov. 24.
The Tigers have four players averaging in double figures, led by projected NBA No. 1 overall draft pick Jabari Smith, who is averaging 16.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per-game. Wendell Green Jr. posts per-game averages of 13.2 points and 4.7 assists, and K.D. Johnson averages 12.9 points and a team-high 2.3 steals per-game. Johnson transferred from Georgia to Auburn during the offseason.
In the frontcourt, Walker Kessler averages a team-high 7.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per-game to go along with 10 points.
Georgia (5-12, 0-4) is heading in the opposite direction of Auburn after a 73-66 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Bulldogs have lost six straight games and seven of their past eight contests. They are the lone SEC team without a league win.
The Bulldogs shot 44.8 percent from the floor against Vanderbilt but just 30 percent from beyond the arc. Georgia also committed 17 turnovers that the Commodores converted into 25 points.
"We had too many points off turnovers in the second half," Georgia coach Tom Crean said. "Our low post defense was not great. ... There's very little you can do to defend a live-ball turnover, and that hurt us."
Kario Oquendo leads Georgia in scoring with 13.4 points per game, while Aaron Cook averages a team-high 6.3 assists and 1.4 steals to go along with 10.3 points per game. Braelen Bridges averages 12.1 points and a team-high six rebounds per game.
Jailyn Ingram, who averaged 10.7 points and six rebounds, is out for the season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament against Jacksonville on Dec. 7.
Georgia posted a 91-86 win over the Tigers in its last visit to Auburn Arena on Feb. 2, 2021, but the Bulldogs are a vastly different squad from the teams' last meeting.
Of the eight players who accounted for the 91 points that day, Jaxon Etter -- who scored two points -- is the only one who hasn't left the program or isn't injured.
Meanwhile, Johnson -- now playing for the Tigers -- scored 12 in that game for Georgia.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2022