GAME NOTES: A pair of teams trending in opposite directions in the SEC standings will meet up at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday night when the Tennessee Volunteers play host to the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia is a modest 14-10 overall this season, but it has been arguably the most pleasant surprise in the SEC, as its 8-4 league record places it third in the league standings behind only Florida and Kentucky. The Bulldogs are currently winners of four straight games, including a dramatic 61-60 triumph versus Ole Miss on Saturday, but they are just 2-5 on the road.
Meanwhile, Tennessee has lost back-to-back games and three of its last four to slide to 15-10 overall and 6-6 in SEC action. The Vols most recently fell on the wrong end of a 75-70 final at Missouri on Saturday, but now they return home where they've enjoyed plenty of success (11-3).
The Vols hold a 93-55 advantage over the Bulldogs in the all-time series, but Georgia has won two straight.
The Bulldogs held a 10-point lead with less than nine minutes to play over the weekend but allowed Ole Miss to climb all the way back to tie the game in the final minute, but Charles Mann made 1-of-2 at the free-throw line with 1.5 seconds left to lift them to the thrilling victory. They shot only 32.7 percent from the field on the afternoon, but they were slightly better than Ole Miss (.322) and dominated the rebounding battle, 49-34. Kenny Gaines was potent from beyond the arc (5-of-8) on his way to 21 points. Mann finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Marcus Thornton hauled in 11 boards and blocked three shots.
Georgia has had success this season despite its rather modest year-to-date numbers, as it shoots 44.2 percent from the field for 69.8 ppg while allowing 67.5 ppg on the other end of the court. It's helped by a +5.6 rebounding margin, but a -2.6 turnover margin and a poor free-throw percentage (.672) cancels out that production. Mann paces the squad with 13.9 ppg and 3.0 apg. Gaines (12.0 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, although Nemanja Djurisic (9.7 ppg) and Brandon Morris (9.1 ppg) are right on the doorstep.
Tennessee and Missouri battled over the weekend, playing within five points of each other for most of the game, but after the Vols fell behind by six late in the second half following a 9-3 Mizzou run, they would never recover. They shot only 40 percent from the field, including a dismal 4-of-19 from 3-point range, while Missouri netted greater than 56 percent of its tries from the floor. Jordan McRae poured in a game-high 31 points but was just 3-of-11 from beyond the arc, while Josh Richardson and Jarnell Stokes added 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Despite their recent slide, the Vols boast impressive numbers on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 44.5 percent from the field for 72.4 ppg, while allowing just 63.8 ppg on 42.2 percent shooting. McRae is one of the SEC's top scorers with 19.6 ppg and he's drained 62 3-pointers at a 38.8 percent clip and just shy of 80 percent of his free-throw attempts. Stokes (14.2 ppg, 10.2 ppg, 0.9 bpg) and Jeronne Maymon (10.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg) make up an imposing frontcourt duo, and Richardson brings 9.5 ppg to the table.
Georgia undoubtedly has the hot hand coming into this one and has had a knack for pulling out close victories this season, but it'll face an uphill climb in this one against a more talented Vols squad defending their home floor.
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