Georgia 86, Auburn 79

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia, playing its first conference game since losing Mike Mercer for the season, relied on balanced scoring to beat Auburn 86-79 on Saturday.

Six players scored 9 or more points as Georgia moved up in the Southeastern Conference standings and boosted its NCAA tournament hopes.

Sundiata Gaines led Georgia with 21 points, including seven free throws in the final 3 minutes.

Takais Brown had 14 points and Dave Bliss and Terrance Woodbury each added 10.

Georgia (16-9 overall, 7-5 SEC) topped last season's total of 15 wins while moving into a tie for third with Kentucky in the Eastern Division. The Bulldogs were 15-15 overall and 5-11 in the SEC last season.

Georgia, already adjusting to the loss of Mercer, ran into early trouble when another high-scoring guard, Levi Stukes, was called for his second foul less than 5 minutes into the game. Stukes sat out the final 15 minutes of the half and finished with 9 points.

Auburn (14-12, 4-8) suffered its fourth straight loss.

Frank Tolbert led the Tigers with 17 points. Rasheem Barrett added 14 and DeWayne Reed had 13.

There were 60 fouls called, including three technicals.

Auburn's Tolbert, Quan Prowell, Josh Dollard, Korvotney Barber and Quantez Robertson fouled out. Tolbert, Barber and Robertson picked up their fifth fouls in the final two minutes.

Georgia took a big lead of 21 points at 67-46 with 7:11 left but then suffered a six-minute drought without a field goal. Auburn cut the lead to 72-63 on a 3-pointer by Rasheem Barrett with 3:06 left.

Rarely used walk-on guard Corey Butler was forced into Georgia's rotation of guards in the first half, but Gaines remained as a stabilizing force. Gaines had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists in the first half, leading the Bulldogs to a 41-27 halftime lead.