Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara reacts after a basket during the...

Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara reacts after a basket during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Athens, Ga. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

ATHENS, Ga. — Chad Baker-Mazara had some extra motivation on Saturday, and it resulted in a career-high in points and another win for No. 14 Auburn.

Baker-Mazara said his high school coach, Danny Brix, passed away this week, and the junior found out about it traveling to Athens to play Georgia. He responded with 25 points and Auburn cruised to a 97-76 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

“He’s always been supportive of me,” Baker-Mazara said. “'Til the day he passed away, he was texting me, calling me, stop flopping or stuff like that, giving me a game plan to get better. ... It was just a lot sooner than you expect and it really lit a fire for me.”

Auburn big man Johni Broome had 16 points and 13 rebounds, with 13 of those points coming in the second half. Chaney Johnson added 16 points for the Tigers, who never trailed in front of a sold-out crowd that had a healthy number of Auburn fans on the road.

With first-place Alabama’s loss to Kentucky, Auburn (21-6, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) is just one game back of first place in the SEC with four games remaining.

Noah Thomasson led Georgia (15-12, 5-9) with 18 points. Silas Demary Jr. and Russel Tchewa had 16 points each. Tchewa had seven rebounds. The Bulldogs have now lost seven of their last eight.

“We don't have as many wins as we'd like,” said Georgia coach Mike White. “We're a more competitive, better basketball team, obviously. Better than we were early and better than we were last year. We are building and we are better, but we want results, though.”

Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara (10) drives against Georgia guard Blue...

Auburn guard Chad Baker-Mazara (10) drives against Georgia guard Blue Cain (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Athens, Ga. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

Aden Holloway hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Auburn to cap an 11-0 run and push the Tigers' lead to 78-63 with 6:03 to play. Georgia never challenged thereafter. Holloway had five 3-pointers on the day to account for his 15 points.

“Aden is one of the best freshman point guards in the nation,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “He hasn’t shot the ball well for a bunch of games, that could have a young man lose his confidence. ... He has kept his attitude pretty good considering. He stayed in it and if we can get him feeling good about himself, that’s a very positive thing.”

Auburn entered having lost two of its last three and had to wait a week to bounce back from an 11-point home loss to Kentucky. But the Tigers came out firing, hitting seven of their first nine shots to jump out to an 18-8 lead. Baker-Mazara, in his first start at Auburn, had eight of the 18.

“To be honest, I realized the guy in front of me couldn’t guard me, so I took advantage of that,” Baker-Mazara said.

Auburn guard Tre Donaldson (3) dives to steal the ball...

Auburn guard Tre Donaldson (3) dives to steal the ball from Georgia guard RJ Melendez (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Athens, Ga. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

Auburn maintained its lead throughout the first half and led at the break 45-34. There were 22 personal fouls and four technical fouls in the first 20 minutes.

Georgia kept things close for the first 12 minutes of the second half and came close to taking the lead on multiple occasions.

“When it got close late, Chad Baker came into the huddle, rallied the troops, calmed them down,” Pearl said. “He's passionate, he's emotional, very appreciative of the opportunity at Auburn. He doesn’t need to play at home to play well.”

Auburn's second-leading scorer, Jaylin Williams, missed the game with a right knee injury. He had started all 26 games and is averaging 13 points per game.

BIG PICTURE

Auburn converted a must-win opportunity on the road to stay in the thick of the SEC race. This would be Pearl's third SEC title since arriving at Auburn in 2014.

Georgia continues to falter after its 12-3 start but will get another chance at Auburn in the season finale.

UP NEXT

Auburn: Visits No. 5 Tennessee, where Pearl coached for six years, on Wednesday night.

Georgia: Visits LSU on Tuesday night.

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