Georgia secures SEC tourney first-round bye thanks to LSU

ATHENS, Ga. -- Auburn's first win of the season over a ranked team has boosted coach Nell Fortner's optimism for the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Georgia coach Andy Landers isn't feeling as upbeat about his turnover-plagued team's play.

Alli Smalley scored 22 points, including a tiebreaking three-point play, and Auburn beat Georgia (No. 22 AP) 63-58 on Thursday night.

Auburn had lost five of six games in February before beating Georgia.

"We just have to use this game as momentum that will carry into the next win, and then hopefully we can just keep on rolling through the tournament," Fortner said.

Auburn (15-13, 8-7 SEC) scored 20 points off Georgia's 17 turnovers.

Freshman Khaalidah Miller made six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points for Georgia (20-8, 10-5), but the Lady Bulldogs were hurt by missed layups and unforced turnovers.

"We've missed 2-foot shots all year," Landers said. "We missed them tonight. ... If we get eight 2-foot shots and miss five of them, that's a problem."

Despite the loss, Georgia secured a first-round bye in the March 3-6 SEC tournament in Nashville, thanks to LSU's 54-51 overtime win over South Carolina.

Morgan Jennings and Blanche Alverson each had 10 points for Auburn. Smalley added four steals and five assists.

Smalley's three-point play gave the Tigers a 61-58 lead with 1:17 remaining. Jasmine James missed two 3-pointers for Georgia in the final 30 seconds, and Smalley added two free throws with five seconds left.

Georgia freshman guard Ronika Ransford was held out by Landers "for not taking care of academic business." The part-time starter, who averages 3.8 points, is eligible but will remain on academic suspension at least through the SEC tournament.

"When you don't go to class, don't do what you're supposed to do, unfortunately the team suffers the consequences," Landers said.

The loss in Georgia's final home game followed a 77-44 loss at No. 4 Tennessee.

"That was definitely something we didn't want to happen," James said. "We kind of talked about how we let one loss turn into another one last year and we didn't want that to happen this year. But here we are kind of sitting in that same situation."

Georgia led 34-32 before three 3-pointers by Miller stretched the lead to 43-36. Auburn answered with a 10-0 run, capped by Smalley's 3-pointer and three-point play to give the Tigers a 46-43 lead.

"I was feeling good about how we were playing at the half," Fortner said. "We were only down [28-24]. All I told them was just to go back out and keep doing their thing, and they got the job done."

Senior Porsha Phillips had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Georgia.