January 23, 2010

Dawgs stay the course, thrash rival Tennessee

This time there was no late-game collapse, no last-minute breakdown and after the final buzzer sounded nobody on Georgia's basketball team was left wondering what might have been.

As a result, the Bulldogs were able to roll past 8th-ranked Tennessee Saturday afternoon 78-63 before a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 10,523.

"This is what can happen when we play like we're truly capable of," sophomore Trey Thompkins said. "We've had some very tough losses in the league coming into this one, but tonight everything clicked. We played about as well as we can play."

Although Georgia (9-8, 1-3) had dropped its first three conference games, the total margin of defeat was a mere 15 points, the total the Bulldogs used to snap the Vols' seven-game win streak. Tennessee's run had included a 76-68 victory last week over previously top-ranked Kansas.

Tennessee fell to 15-3, 3-1 in the SEC.

"That was a hard-fought game and we played very, very well; we had to do beat a very good team. We had a great deal of respect for Tennessee coming in and our kids practiced hard all week," head coach Mark Fox said. "I'm very proud of our team because they've had some gut-wrenching defeats, but they've responded to those and they deserve credit for playing well."

The game was never really close.

Tennessee only led once - 4-2 in the early moments of the game - as Georgia forged ahead by as much as 24 points on three different occasions in the second half before settling for the 15-point win.

"We finally put it together," senior center Albert Jackson said. "We played a complete 40-minutes worth of basketball; not a partial 40-minutes, this was something we weren't able to do the last few games."

Thompkins once again led the Bulldogs in scoring with 21 points and eight rebounds. But it was teammate Travis Leslie/db] who provided some of the night's more memorable highlights with a trio of electrifying dunks, including an amazing windmill slam to punctuate a 12-4 run for Georgia to start the game.

"When I first got the ball, at first I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to do," Leslie said. "I just didn't want to mess it up. I wanted to give the fans something to be excited about."

Teammate [db]Dustin Ware, who was trailing Leslie on the play, might have had the best look in the house.

"Compared to some of the stuff I've seen him do in practice that was like kindergarten," Ware said. "It was funny. I was at the 3-point line and I just kept running because I wanted to get a closer look at what he was going to do."

The Bulldogs led 42-27 at the half, shooting 65 percent from the field (15-for-23) and made nine of their 10 free throw attempts.

"We played very well at both ends of the floor the first half. I had a real hunch during shoot-around that we were going to play well," Fox said. "It was evident in their spirit, the first half might have been as well as we've played this year, no question. We were fortunate to play with a lead which if you can get a double-figure lead and play that most of the night it makes it a lot easier."

It didn't hurt that the Bulldogs were finally able to get some significant minutes from their bench for the first time in six games.

Jeremy Price played a solid 25 minutes, finishing with nine points, while Ebuka Anyaorah and Chris Barnes totaled 15 and 14 minutes respectively. Guard Ricky McPhee was the third Bulldog in double-figures, finishing with 11 points.

"Coach has been letting us know that he needed for somebody to start being a spark off the bench, whether it's one of us or all of us," Anyaorah said. "That's what we've been talking about. We just wanted to play with as much energy as we could to give the starters as much help as possible."

Georgia's win over of the Vols was the Bulldogs since Feb. 21, 2004.

Scotty Hopson led Tennessee (15-3, 3-1 SEC) with 19 points and was the only Tennessee player to make a 3-pointer. The Vols made only 3 of 16 attempts beyond the 3-point line, including 3 of 6 by Hopson. Bobby Maze added 11 points.

NOTES: Saturday's sellout was the first for men's basketball at Stegeman Coliseum in two years, a fact Fox took note of after the game. "This is one of the reasons I came to Georgia. We have great fans, we just had a great college game at Stegeman, it was sold out and it was a tremendous home-court advantage," Fox said. "That's what college basketball is all about. Our fans were terrific, our students were great; that's what this experience should be about and now we have to build on it. I thank our fans for coming, they were a big part of the game and now we have to try and do it again." … Georgia returns to action Wednesday at Florida. The Bulldogs' next home game is Feb. 3 against Arkansas.

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