Jan 17, 2017; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs forward Yante Maten (1) blocks a shot by Vanderbilt Commodores guard Riley LaChance (13) during the second half at Stegeman Coliseum. Georgia defeated Vanderbilt 76-68. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Hoops Preview: Senior Night in Athens as Georgia Hosts Auburn

With conference tournament play right around the corner in college basketball, teams are looking to take advantage of the final few opportunities to boost their resume. This holds true for the Auburn Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs, who face off in Athens on Wednesday night.

The Tigers have lost four of their past five contests. The four losses have been by an average margin of a little under 14 points per game. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have won four of their past five contests, with their only loss coming against ninth-ranked Kentucky.

While both squads boast an identical 17-12 record, they appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Tigers have lost four of their past five contests. The four losses have been by an average margin of a little under 14 points per game. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have won four of their past five contests, with their only loss coming against ninth-ranked Kentucky.

First Meeting

The two teams squared off in late December, where Georgia won 96-84 after outscoring the Tigers 53-33 in the second half. Auburn’s offensive production was very balanced, with eight players scoring six or more points. Georgia was the complete opposite, with star players Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier scoring 31 and 27 points, respectively.

The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Tigers by five and forced them into 13 turnovers. However, the outcome of the game was determined at the foul line. The Tigers shot 17-27 (63%) from the line, while the Bulldogs shot 29-38 (76.3%).

Focus on Frazier

The second time around should be a much closer contest, even with Auburn playing on the road. Georgia’s leading scoring, Yante Maten (18.7 points per game), who is also the third leading scorer in the SEC, is out for the game with a knee sprain. This will allow Auburn to focus all of their attention on J.J. Frazier, who is the SEC’s fourth-leading scorer (18.1 points per game).

Frazier is also fourth in the SEC in assists (4.3 per game) and second in steals (2.0 per game). The senior guard averaged 28.5 points per game in two games last week and was named SEC player of the week, so there are not many hotter players in college basketball.

Even with Maten out, Auburn could continue to struggle defensively. Their inability to defend has haunted them all season, which can be seen by the 79.4 points they allow per game. This ranks 320th in the country and 13th in the SEC, only ahead of LSU. However, the Tigers could be in luck. With the focus on Frazier and no go-to scorers outside of Frazier and Maten, the Bulldogs could potentially struggle to find consistent offense.

Tiger’s Balanced Attack

While Mustapha Heron leads Auburn in points (15.1 per game) and rebounds (5.8 per game), the Tigers have a very balanced scoring attack. They boast seven players that average more than 7.0 points per game and rank third in the SEC in scoring (80.1 points per game).

It’s expected that the Bulldogs will focus their defensive game plan on Heron, who is shooting a deadly 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. Auburn as a whole is shooting 36.1 percent from the three-point line, which is fourth in the SEC. With the Bulldogs most likely targeting the star freshman, expect Jared Harper (11.9), Danjel Purifoy (11.3), Austin Wiley (8.8), or Ronnie Johnson (8.0) to shoulder the scoring load.

Maten’s absence will change the game plan for both squads, which should lead to a much closer contest this time around. Look for both teams to come out aggressive and trade blow for blow as they attempt to acquire a higher seed for the upcoming SEC tournament.

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