Tennessee wins, 59-57
I have to head to interviews, but my first inclination after watching in real time is that a) Brian Williams' tip-in did beat the buzzer, but b) a foul for over-the-back certainly could have been called.
A heart-wrenching loss for the Bulldogs, but I just had the sense for much of the game that this wasn't their night. They needed to come out sharper, and didn't.
6:44 left in second half, tied at 47
They're showing the Rocky clip, which I might get very sick of by the end of the season, so I guess it's time for my penultimate post.
And by penultimate, I mean I'll have to turn to writing my story on the game, because I have a deadline. And right now it's anyone's guess which way it'll turn.
It didn't look good for Georgia after it let Skyler McBee nail a 3 to make it 47-43 - which in this half qualifies as a big lead. But then Travis Leslie took things in his hand, dunking back his own jumper miss, then converting a three-point play.
And as I write this, Scotty Hopson is converting a three-point play, with Leslie picking up his fourth foul in the process. ... Up, down, up, down ... This one seems headed to the wire.
12:07 left in second half, Tennessee leads 42-41
Neither team is showing much sign of pulling away, but I still get the feeling that a) all things being equal Georgia should win, but b) it may not be sharp enough to do so tonight.
Witness Gerald Robinson, who on a break tried to throw down a leaping tomahawk dunk, and predictably missed. Mark Fox quickly gave Robinson the hook.
It's also becoming a foul-plagued half, with the crowd and Fox protesting a bunch of calls. (The crowd less mildly than Fox.)
15:51 left in second half, Georgia leads 37-36
Georgia came out with more energy in this half - perhaps too much energy. Travis Leslie, trying hard to go to the basket and get a layup, got frustrated and committed his third foul on the rebound. There have been a few messy passes, and Jeremy Price was lucky not to get his third foul with a little over-eager pushing. Then he did his third a minute later.
The half started with Tobias Harris missing a 3, which by itself is a good sign for Georgia. But why, after the freshman nailed three in the first half, was Harris open again?
In any case, Georgia has the lead and the ball after the media timeout. Trey Thompkins has four points in the half so far, and I suspect Gerald Robinson, whose game has been nascent since the early stages, is due for a re-emergence.
Halftime: Tennessee leads 35-33
I guess you have to remember that Georgia is still the program trying to get to where Tennessee has been. Still, you can see where the Bulldogs and their fans would be disappointed by the first half.
Tennessee doesn't have its head coach, and its leading scorer didn't play the last eight minutes and change after picking up his second foul. But then a 15-2 run, powered by three straight 3s by Tobias Harris, turned things back in the Vols' favor.
Then it was Georgia's turn to rally, helped in large part by a technical foul on Tennessee for interfering with Trey Thompkins' foul attempt.
The Bulldogs almost led at the half, but Dustin Ware's 3 barely rolled out. So basically, this remains anyone's game.
But should it be? Georgia played very uneven, and didn't get consistent production from Thompkins and Travis Leslie. I imagine Mark Fox is most angry about the defense: Harris being left open, some of the interior play, and not getting back on several transition chances.
The good news for Georgia is it seems to have a lot of room to improve in the second half. Problem is, the team has been flat a lot of this game so far, so it's going to take a big mental adjustment at the half to get things going.
7:56 left in first half, Georgia leads 22-16
Well that's what a good team does, ladies and gentleman. And Georgia seems to be a good team.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs have turned the game in their favor with a 12-2 run - and Trey Thompkins will be at the free throw line with a chance to extend the run, and finish off a three-point play.
Plus, Scotty Hopson (11 points) just picked up his second foul for Tennessee. Until the Vols elect to risk him on the court, it's up to Tobias Harris and the other supporting players to get the Vols going.
Once Georgia got other people involved, things started to turn. Trey Thompkins scored his first basket to tie it at 14. Then Dustin Ware hit a 3 to give Georgia its first lead since the early minutes. Then Travis Leslie converted a three-point play to cap a 10-2 run.
11:29 left in first half, Tennessee leads 14-10
Mark Fox can’t like the energy level of his team so far – with the exception of one player.
If Georgia didn’t have Gerald Robinson, things would look bleak already.
On Georgia’s first possession, Robinson rolled off a screen and hit a 3 from the top of the key. Then he hit another 3 to tie it at 8.
Then the junior scooted downcourt ahead on the break, throwing down a dunk to make it 12-10.
So basically Robinson came to play, but every other Bulldog has been quiet. Travis Leslie has the team’s only other basket, Trey Thompkins hasn’t done anything yet, and Jeremy Price has two fouls.
Meanwhile it’s the Scotty Hopson show on the other side: The junior guard with the awesome flat-top hairdo has nine points, easily carrying his team so far. (Freshman stud Tobias Harris, the team’s second-leading scorer, has one basket.)
On Georgia’s first possession, Gerald Robinson rolled off a screen and hit a 3 from the top of the key. Then he hit another 3 to tie it at 8.
6:40 p.m.: The crowd files in
The student section was filled in about an hour before tip-off. The rest of the arena is taking a bit longer, as you'd expect with such an early game time. (It's on ESPNU, by the way.)
The teams are on the floor warming up - including Tennessee with its minor fashion statement. If there's been another team that had hoods on its warmup suits, I don't remember seeing it. A few of them are actually wearing them while they go through layup drills.
Well, it is only layup drills.
I don't know if this will matter, but Tennessee - minus its head coach - doesn't look like it's normal loose bunch. I say this because a few years ago, when I was covering South Carolina, I took note that the Gamecocks were so focused in warmups, while the Vols were holding a dunk contest. And then the Vols went out and blew the doors off the Gamecocks.
Through the years the Vols have seemed to thrive on that playground kind of attitude, and I don't see it in warmups, for what that's worth.
6:05 p.m.: Pre-game thoughts
You are looking live at all the Tostitos ... wait, at Stegeman Coliseum, which tonight will house yet another relatively important SEC men's basketball game.
Tennessee is in town to face Georgia, which is coming off its bus-ride across the South, which saw the Bulldogs lose at Vanderbilt, and win resoundingly at Ole Miss. Now they're back at home to face a Volunteer team that will be without its head coach for the fourth straight game.
Bruce Pearl, as you know, was suspended eight games by the SEC for recruiting violations. So he's not here. The Pearl-meister will be watching the game from home in Knoxville, after he elected not to even make the trip with the team, citing the team not having a shootaround before the game.
But I'm here, and in fact got here so early that I almost beat Gerald Robinson. (He scrambled in right ahead of me, carrying his high-tops.)
This game is one the Bulldogs should win, and probably need to, in order to remain a factor in the ultra-competitive SEC East. I'm very intrigued to see how Georgia handles Tennessee's long, athletic bodies, particularly freshman Tobias Harris.
Georgia is a four-point favorite, according to the boys in Vegas. SI.com's Seth Davis has picked Georgia to win 79-70. As for the other Seth ... if I were a betting man, I'd take Georgia and the points, particularly without Pearl here. But with the Vols' talent, I don't say that with a huge degree of confidence.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Tennessee wins, 59-57