While the focus of the college sports world on Wednesday was on National Signing Day, Mark Fox’s Georgia Bulldogs were in Knoxville attempting to extend their improbable SEC winning streak. Amazingly enough, they accomplished the feat of winning on the road in an arena that has not been kind to the Red and Black, beating the Tennessee Volunteers by a 68-62 margin in a game in which the Hoop Hounds never trailed.
Georgia took an early lead on a Donte` Williams jump shot nine seconds into the contest and held onto it, remaining out in front while building up an 11-4 edge off of a Kenny Gaines trey six minutes into the first half. Tennessee’s Derek Reese answered with a three-pointer of his own, but Gaines responded with a jump shot 20 seconds later. Vincent Williams buried one from beyond the arc to put the Bulldogs up by double digits nearing the ten-minute mark, and the two teams traded treys and free throws until a Nemanja Djurisic three-pointer with nine seconds showing on the scoreboard sent Georgia to the locker room holding a 35-26 advantage on the Volunteers’ home court.
The Big Orange cut into that lead early in the second half, pulling to within five before Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit another shot from downtown to make it a 40-32 game. Tennessee would not go away, however, and the combination of Kenny Hall, Josh Richardson, and Jarnell Stokes chipped away at the Bulldogs’ edge until Jordan McRae was able to tie the game at 43 with 13 and a half minutes remaining. Gaines put the Red and Black back in front with a jumper 16 seconds later, then, depending upon how one chose to view it, either the defenses stepped up or the offenses went into their shells.
Thanks to fouls, missed shots, and defensive rebounds, the only points scored in the next four and a half minutes came on the Sherrard Brantley three-pointer that staked the Red and Black to a five-point lead with just inside eleven minutes to play. A Caldwell-Pope layup two minutes later made it 50-43 for the visitors, yet still the Volunteers would not go away, narrowing the gap to a single point with fewer than five minutes left. Caldwell-Pope buried a clutch three-pointer to give the Fox Hounds a little breathing room, but Hall pulled the Big Orange within 57-55 on a layup 20 seconds later.
Back stormed the Bulldogs with a Vincent Williams jumper to give Georgia a four-point advantage with three and a half minutes remaining. A Stokes free throw chipped away at the deficit, but a Gaines jump shot extended the lead anew. Caldwell-Pope contributed a jumper and a trey on consecutive possessions to build up an eight-point advantage with 51 seconds showing on the scoreboard, and the Fox Hounds coasted the rest of the way to victory.
Despite the fact that Charles Mann and Brandon Morris both incurred four fouls, Georgia came away with a victory in a hostile environment in a game in which the Bulldogs led throughout. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope contributed 24 points, but Kenny Gaines (12) and Vincent Williams (10) were in double-figures, as well, while the bench contributed 28 points. The Red and Black shot 50 per cent from the field (23 of 46), 55 per cent from three-point range (11 of 20), and nearly 80 per cent from the charity stripe (11 of 14). Don’t look now, ladies and gentlemen, but the 2012-’13 edition of the Fox Hounds may just turn out to be a competent basketball team, after all.