AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Streaking Auburn didn’t let up even with its highest ranking in more than two decades and a bigger game looming.
Walker Kessler had 15 points and six blocked shots to lead a half-dozen scorers in double figures for No. 2 Auburn in an 83-60 rout of Georgia on Wednesday night. Next up: No. 12 Kentucky on Saturday.
“We didn’t talk about Kentucky at all coming into this game,” point guard Wendell Green Jr. said. “We always want to respect our opponent no matter what their record is, and that’s what we did tonight.”
The Tigers (17-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) built a 25-point lead by halftime and coasted to their 14th consecutive win, tied with Davidson for the nation’s longest current streak. It’s their best SEC start in 63 years after flirting with the program’s first No. 1 ranking.
Jaylin Williams scored 13 points, while Georgia transfer K.D. Johnson, Green and Jabari Smith all finished with 12. Allen Flanigan added 10 for the Tigers.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said the Tigers played “pretty well” in the first half.
“You know, we got outplayed in the second half,” Pearl said. “Georgia played hard the whole time, as you knew they would, but we did what we needed to do.”
The Tigers are the only SEC team without a league loss after No. 12 Kentucky’s win over Texas A&M.
Green had 11 assists and four steals against the Bulldogs (5-13, 0-5), the only SEC team without a league win.
“Wendell did such a special job getting the ball to the right people at the right time,” Pearl said. “Wendell was having fun out there, which I love to see.”
Christian Wright led Georgia with 16 points, going 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Noah Baummann and Braelen Bridges scored 11 apiece.
Aaron Cook, a so-called super senior, became just the 18th Division I player to play in 150 games and scored nine.
Georgia was without leading scorer Kario Oquendo with a lower body injury, which coach Tom Crean said was a pregame decision.
Held scoreless most of the first half, Johnson hit three 3-pointers in a three-minute span against his former team. That hot streak helped the Tigers build a 52-27 lead, their largest halftime advantage of the season.
The Bulldogs got as close as 16 in the second half when Auburn missed eight straight shots.
“We had a chance and it’s still a long game with eight minutes left and then we had a couple of costly turnovers and they capitalized,” Crean said. “They do a really good job of capitalizing.”
Auburn attempted a season-high 36 3-pointers, making 10.
Georgia lost its seventh straight game and wasn’t ever really in this one after the first few minutes. Was outrebounded 41-31.
Auburn became the program’s third team to rise to No. 2 on Monday, joining the 1959 and 1999 Tigers. They’re are off to their best start in SEC play since opening 12-0 in the 1958-59 season. That’s the only other 6-0 league start in program history.
Auburn is trying to state a case for the top spot in the rankings after receiving more No. 1 votes than newly top-ranked Gonzaga.
Georgia visits South Carolina on Saturday.
Auburn hosts No. 12 Kentucky Saturday in perhaps the biggest game at Auburn Arena since it opened in 2010. “It’ll be a clash of the titans for sure,” Pearl said.
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