Final: Georgia 69, Tennessee 63
Just a big, huge, important win for Georgia. And it came after blowing a lead - then coming back again, and this time holding on.
Dustin Ware hit four free throws in a row, after missing two in a row. Then Gerald Robinson had a key strip, leading to an open-court Jeremy Price dunk that sealed it.
Robinson was huge down the stretch, especially with his layup to extend the lead to five.
Such a key win for Georgia's NCAA hopes. The way it sets up now, I think if Georgia wins out at home (LSU and South Carolina), and the bubble stays the way it is, I think the Bulldogs should be good for an at-large bid.
3:37 left in second half, Georgia leads 58-52
Late in the first half, when Tennessee started to come back, I was thinking that it might be good for Georgia to go ahead and fall behind, rather than try to hold on to a lead. Well, that's proving true. But for how long.
At least give the Bulldogs credit, they took the Tennessee run and have come back from it to lead by as many as four. The defense and rebounding on that end have been very good, allowing the Bulldogs to get back to basics on the offensive end: Attack the rim and go for high-percentage shots.
It's working. Travis Leslie just made a banker, and after a timeout has a chance to extend the lead to seven. The next two minutes - and whether UGA stays good on the defensive end - may decide it.
11:39 left in second half, Tennessee leads 45-43
Well that was quick, huh? Maybe the silver lining for Georgia is that the inevitable blown lead has occurred, so now it can take a deep breath and proceed.
Jeremy Price's frustration was evident a minute ago, when he was given a technical after saying something to Steven Pearl. Sitting a few feet from the Bulldog bench, I also can read the wariness on the players' faces.
15:40 left in second half, Georgia leads 37-32
You can just sense it going away again for Georgia. It's playing sloppy, it can't stop Scotty Hopson, the crowd is getting into it.
The one upshot for Georgia: It still has the lead. And Tennessee, in my opinion, isn't as good as Vanderbilt. So a well-timed run here could go a long way.
But it needs to get Thompkins going. It just can't afford another low-scoring game from its star.
More halftime thoughts
Georgia came out of the locker room earlier than normal for its halftimes. I'm guessing Mark Fox didn't want them in there thinking about possibly blowing another lead, so he got them back out on the court as quick as possible to just shoot.
It's funny. The media members covering Tennessee are talking about the Vols' issues, wondering if they can come back, etc. But the trio of us from Georgia that made this trip are pretty much saying, "Yup, we've seen this before."
If the Bulldogs could hold on, though, it would be huge, no doubt.
Halftime: Georgia leads 33-25
So ... Georgia is up nearly double-digits at the break. Under normal circumstances that would be cause for optimism for UGA, but given recent games, you're forgiven for feeling wary.
That said, obviously better than be ahead than behind, especially on the road. And if not for Scotty Hopson (11 points) and Tobias Harris (nine), Tennessee would be way behind.
Travis Leslie (nine points) and Dustin Ware and Jeremy Price (six points each) are leading the way. But Trey Thompkins has been held scoreless since getting five in the first few minutes.
The Bulldogs have also been a bit sloppy, committing eight turnovers. (The Vols only have four turnovers, but are 9-for-32 from the field.)
You have to figure the Vols will shoot better in the second half. So then it comes down to the Bulldogs being able to answer them shot-for-shot - and better yet, put together another run a bit later in the half. (They had second-half runs in both previous games, but early.)
Maybe Georgia can win by holding on. But the evidence of the past few games tells me it needs to put the Vols away, and convincingly. Let's see if the Bulldogs have that in them.
9:17 left in first half, Georgia leads 22-7
So, if we hadn't seen Georgia the past week, we would say the Bulldogs are running away with this.
Tennessee is struggling mightily (2-for-15 from the field), while Georgia is applying the juice to the tune of a 17-0 run.
Let's see what Georgia does, now presented with a big lead for the third straight game. I don't want to sound like a coach here, but get up by 23 (like at South Carolina), you need to go up 30. Get up by 14 (like against Vanderbilt) you need to make it 20.
11:58 left in first half, Georgia leads 16-7
I know that the key lately has been Georgia not finishing games - but the Bulldogs are off to a pretty good start here in hostile territory.
There's been help from an abundance of quarters: Trey Thompkins started it, looking like he was following through on his vow to be more of a factor. As for the other starters, I wasn’t too impressed with the the activity the first few minutes – then they woke up: Leslie with one his patented throw-down dunks, Ware with a nice assist and a 3.
And when Jeremy Price drains a long jumper, you know he's feeling it.
On the other end, it also helps that Tennessee has four airballs.
Is it too early for me to point out that in the past two games - at South Carolina and against Vanderbilt - Georgia didn't put its opponents away when it should have? Yes, it's probably too early. But the point remains.
12:40 a.m.: Pregame stuff
As you know, Bruce Pearl is coaching Tennessee today, unlike the first game against Georgia.
(Unless something else comes out about Cam Newton and/or Auburn in the next half-hour, in which case the SEC will suspend Pearl again.)
Georgia hasn't won here at Thompson-Boling arena in 10 years. So maybe that's why - despite the Bulldogs having a better overall record, and an equal record in the SEC - not many people are favoring them to win this one today.
Then again, Georgia has been so much better on the road, so maybe the change of venue will help. The road wins haven't been too impressive - Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Mercer and Saint Louis. But they're road games nonetheless, so ... we'll see.
11:30 a.m.: Mr. Blog Man arrives
Knoxville, Tenn. - Okay, time to break down Georgia's critical game here at Tennessee, and what the Bulldogs have to do, starting with containing the lane, forcing transition and -
OMG OMG OMG Gus Johnson is calling this game!!!!! Gus freaking Johnson!!!!
You know it's a big one when Gus is on the call. It makes me jealous for those of you who didn't make the trip and will be able to enjoy it from home. It's uncanny: Gus is on the call, and crazy stuff happens, and he's there to call it like the Hindenburg is going down.
In case you're not familiar with Gus' work, here are some samples:
And it's not just college basketball. Here's an NFL sample.
Basically, if Gus Johnson had called Georgia Tech-Cumberland, it would have been 222-221.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Final: Georgia 69, Tennessee 63