The Tennessee hoops team traveled to Athens on Wednesday night for a showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs, and it seemed they left their defense in Knoxville.
The excitement around the fact that Uros Plavsic was cleared by the NCAA on Tuesday to play immediately for Tennessee quickly faded in the first half.
It started off pretty well for Tennessee, with Josiah-Jordan James hitting two 3-point shots and the Vols offense keeping up with the Dawgs, as it was tied 8-8 at the U16 break. Ball-screens and the lack of transition defense started to show up against the Vols as the half wore on.
Tennessee was 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-9 from 3-point range around the next break, as Georgia led 20-15. It looked like the Vols were playing slow off the ball, definitely hurting themselves with the lack of effort in getting back on defense. The Dawgs took full advantage of the slow play.
Plavsic checked into the game at the 12:49 mark, trying to give Tennessee a shot in the arm and a presence in the paint, but Georgia was just shooting lights out, thanks to Anthony Edwards. Rick Barnes talked about the NCAA clearing Plavsic: “Our administration did a great job of finally getting it looked at the way it should’ve been.” Noting that a ruling should’ve been made “at least six games ago.”
Barnes added “I thought Uros, for the first time actually did some good things. I can’t imagine what was going through his head Leading up to the game, not knowing if he was gonna play all year. Been waiting a year & half, I thought for most part he handled himself pretty well. He’s gotta get better defensively, but I can say that about everybody”
Georgia led 32-19 at the 7:44 mark of the first half, as the Dawgs were 5-of-7 from 3-point range at this point, to go along with a 24-8 run. Although the Dawgs went almost three minutes without a field goal, Tennessee didn’t take advantage, going 1-of-9 during the stretch.
Triple-J led Tennessee with eight points at halftime, but that wasn’t close to what Edwards did for Georgia. Edwards scored 20 points in the half, on 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He was too much for the Vols in the first half and Tennessee didn’t have an answer.
Rick Barnes was very disappointed in his guard play tonight, which seemed to be running at a slower pace.” Our guards, Santiago & Josiah have got to give us some leadership. They don’t give us an initial thrust at all on offense. They just play at a much slower pace than we wanna play. Actually the only time we broke away is when Jordan Bowden did it, that’s what we’ve been known for”.
Bad defense and pretty rough shooting led to a 47-28 halftime lead for Georgia.
Tennessee came out in the second half looking to cut the deficit, but continued running into the same kind of problems. The Dawgs were hellbent on pushing the Vols in transition, which seemed to get Tennessee into some awkward positions defensively.
Rick Barnes was asked about his guard play, especially in transition “We’re not good at it, and until those guys understand our transition game. We get bogged down and have to play a half court game, with the players we have right now & not a post guy who really wants the ball
Georgia led Tennessee 61-40 at the U12 break, as the Vols were 15-of-42 from the field and 5-of-20 from 3-point range at that moment. This group could never get into a flow, even when they tried to pick up the pace and attack the basket. Triple-J missed a clean layup around the 11:22 mark that pretty much summed up the night so far for Tennessee.
Barnes “Too many soft play with guys going to the basket instead of moving your feet to make a play. Just swipe down for ticky tack fouls. That’s soft. When you have too many of those plays, you don’t deserve to win”
Rayshaun Hammonds had 17 points at the 8:11 mark, helping Georgia extend the lead in the second half, as Edwards hadn’t scored up to that point.
Tennessee just couldn’t get a shot to fall, add that to some pretty bad on-ball defense and it leads to a rough night. Georgia went 2-of-10 during another stretch, but again, Tennessee couldn’t close the gap. trailing 76-54 at the U4 break.
Barnes said he was disappointed in just about everything you can be disappointed in. “Defensively we just weren’t very good, we just didn’t put up the fight we normally do and that’s what is most disappointing”
This was a performance from Edwards and Hammonds that Tennessee couldn’t keep up with, especially with how the Vols were shooting. Georgia had 12 fast break points on the night, which lined up with the poor transition defense.
Georgia defeated Tennessee 80-64. The Vols are now 10-6 on the season and 2-2 in SEC play.
Jordan Bowden led Tennessee with 12 points and three rebounds, while Triple-J had 11 points. The Vols shot 23 percent from 3-point range (6-of-26) & 40 percent from the floor ( 24-of-60). That kind of shooting will not win you many games in the SEC and that kind of defense won’t keep you in many games.
Barnes said of Bowden “I don’t want to make excuses, Bowden hadn’t practiced for two days he’s been batting the flu and Fulky hasn’t been great. I thought Bowden tried, doing what he could do, without practicing for a few days”
Tennessee has a lot to work on right now, the shots just aren’t falling and this isn’t the first time the defense has failed to live up to Barnes’ expectations. With a trip to Nashville looming on Saturday, they might wanna figure this thing out quick.