1:00 PM ET, January 25, 2003
Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia coach Jim Harrick looked at the scoresheet and smiled.He didn't mind a bit that his best player, Jarvis Hayes, scored only 12 points. Everyone else contributed, and that made the coach happy. With Hayes hindered by an injury, the (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) Bulldogs turned to some of their lesser-known players to beat (ESPN/USA Today unranked, No. 24 AP) Auburn 85-79 on Saturday. Steve Thomas had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Chris Daniels and Damien Wilkins each scored 12 points to help the Bulldogs overcome a poor showing by Hayes. Ezra Williams led the Bulldogs with 19 points. "We're a much better team with five guys in double figures,'' Harrick said. "I like that much better than the other day.'' In Georgia's previous game, Williams scored 29 points and Hayes added 23 in an overtime victory over Tennessee. On Saturday, the Bulldogs proved they are more than a two-man team. "We've got a complete team,'' said Hayes, who was slowed by a hip flexor. "It's not always me or Ezra. We've got other guys who are capable of stepping up.'' Georgia (12-4, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) handed the Western Division-leading Tigers (15-4, 4-2) their second straight league loss. Auburn lost at Kentucky on Wednesday. "We have got a good team,'' coach Cliff Ellis said. "The SEC is a bear. We led Kentucky with 12½ to go, and we were in this one down to the wire. It was a great game.'' Hayes was only 3-of-12 from the field and finished far below his average of 18.5 per game. But the Bulldogs shot 59 percent in the second half and made 17 of 18 free throws overall -- 9-of-10 in the final 1:23 to seal the victory. Brandon Robinson had a career-high 25 points, including a spinning, double-pumping dunk after he stole the ball from Thomas and drove the length of the court. "I try to be creative every now and then,'' said Robinson, who also led the team with nine rebounds. Marquis Daniels scored 20 points and Marco Killingsworth added 16 for the Tigers, but it wasn't enough to overcome a total team effort by Georgia. All seven players who got on the court contributed. Point guard Rashad Wright had eight points, five assists, two steals and only one turnover. Jonas Hayes, Jarvis' twin bother, added six points and five rebounds. "That's a sign of maturity,'' Williams said. "We've grown as a team. We've been together for three years now, and we know how to win toward the end of the game.'' The Bulldogs have won 11 of 12 since starting the season 1-3. The only loss in that stretch came at No. 5 Florida, which won on a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Thomas wasn't much of a factor in Georgia's first four SEC games, averaging just over six points and going only 1-of-4 at the foul line. "I've been struggling to find my rhythm,'' Thomas said. "You can't take days off in the SEC.'' He finally broke out against Auburn, going 5-for-8 from the field and sinking all six of his free-throw attempts. Defensively, he helped the Bulldogs cope with Auburn's size advantage on the front line. "Thomas was magnificent today,'' Harrick said. "Without him, we're nowhere to be found.'' Wilkins, who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina State, struggled initially in his new role as a backup. But he has played well the last two games, shooting 5-of-7 against Auburn. "Coach has been telling me to be patient, let it come to me, stop thinking so much,'' Wilkins said. "You're only as good as your last game. Hopefully, I've got a lot more games like that to come.'' Auburn went up for the first time since the opening minutes when Robinson scored in the lane to make it 54-53 with 12:40 to go. The teams swapped the lead four times before Jonas Hayes hit a jumper with 8:34 remaining to spark a 6-0 run that put Georgia ahead to stay. Jarvis Hayes connected from the baseline with four minutes remaining to give the Bulldogs a 72-67 lead. Georgia's overlooked front line took a starring role the rest of the way, with Thomas and Chris Daniels each scoring six points. The game was cleanly played after last year's contest was marred by a brawl between Thomas and Auburn's Kyle Davis with two minutes remaining. Harrick also was ejected as the Tigers upset the Bulldogs 75-72. This time, Robinson had a huge game off the bench, shooting 9-of-13 to better his previous career high of 21 points, set in December 2001 against North Carolina-Asheville.
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