The Georgia Bulldogs entered Wednesday night’s contest against Tennessee as the only team in the SEC that had not yet played against a ranked team. Georgia lost to the 16th-ranked Volunteers 89-81, which did not set a great tone for the tough schedule facing the Bulldogs over the next two weeks.
The Bulldogs came in as winners of three straight games after their narrow victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday. An originally scheduled game against Texas A&M had to be moved because of COVID-19 issues within the Aggies program, forcing Georgia and Tennessee to play on short notice. Despite a valiant comeback attempt by the Bulldogs in the second half, the damage was already done because of a commanding performance by the Volunteers in the first 20 minutes.
Oftentimes in college basketball, a box score does not tell the full story of a game, but in this contest it was telling. Tennessee is one of the few teams in the conference that can play at the same fast-paced level that Georgia normally likes to play. This helped the Volunteers find many open 3-point opportunities in transition, and they made the Bulldogs pay.
“They had more open shots, especially in the first half because we were not communicating very well in transition,” said Georgia head coach Tom Crean. “They are a very good passing team and they spaced the floor well.”
Tennessee dominated the end of the first half to build up an 18-point lead heading into the break, and from there Georgia could never fully recover. The Volunteers made 55% of their shots in the first half, which included making 8-15 from behind the 3-point line. Georgia also turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, a big part of why the Bulldogs were only able to score 26 points in that timeframe.
Although they were facing an uphill battle, the Bulldogs did not just roll over and give up as they did a few weeks ago at South Carolina. Georgia actually outscored Tennessee 55-45 after the intermission and at one point cut the Volunteers lead to six points. K.D. Johnson, who had been relatively quiet during Georgia’s recent win streak, turned in an impressive performance. The freshman guard scored a career-high 22 points, and all but two of those points came in the second half.
“We’re certainly a much better team when [Johnson] is playing the way he played tonight in the second half,” said Crean. “But it’s a learning process, that is all part of it. He’s been eligible for four weeks… those things take time.”
Tennessee’s Jaden Springer led all scorers with 30 points, and only missed two of his 11 shots from the floor. His backcourt mate, freshman Keon Johnson also had some highlight moments including a dunk over Georgia’s Toumani Camara that will almost surely make ESPN Sportscenter’s top-10 plays of the night.
Georgia will next face No. 11 Alabama – which has only lost one conference game, followed by No. 10 Missouri, and then finally the Florida Gators, who just fell out of the top-25 rankings but have already beaten Georgia this season. The Bulldogs will need to play more consistently on both ends of the floor in order to win any of these upcoming games.
Georgia will have to try to begin a new win streak in Tuscaloosa on Saturday against the Alabama Crimson Tide, who sit atop the SEC standings. That game tips off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and can be seen on SEC Network.