Vols vs South Carolina
Josiah-Jordan James, #5, attempts to regain control of the ball during the game against South Carolina on Saturday, January 11, 2020 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

ATHENS, GA- It was an ugly evening for Tennessee, who had little answers for Anthony Edwards and Georgia. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-point halftime lead and secured their first SEC win of the season, 80-63.

Georgia pushed the tempo against Tennessee and the Vols 3-point heavy offense couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs.

Here are three takeaways.

Disastrous first half

Tennessee led 12-8 seven minutes into the game, but from there on it was all Georgia who used strong shooting to steamroll the Vols in the first half.

Georgia would spend the next 2:55 on a 14-3 run that would extend to a 26-7 run by the under eight timeout. 

Tennessee wouldn’t get the game back to single digits after that point as the Bulldogs cruised the rest of the way. Georgia would shoot 53% in the half including a scorching 8 of 13 from 3-point range. 

“I didn’t think we had a competitive fight or spirit at all,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said. “Defensively, we were not very good. We didn’t show the fight that we normally do and that’s what’s most disappointing.”

Rayshaun Hammonds played Robbin to Anthony Edward’s Batman, including hitting back-to-back triples to push Georgia’s lead to double digits. Edwards, however, was the star of the half. The projected top five pick schooled the Vols in the scoring 20 of his game high 26 points in the first half.

Edwards did it on just 10 first half shots while grabbing five rebounds.

Tennessee’s offense didn’t do the Vols much favors either. The Vols scored just 28 points while shooting a woeful 34% from the field and 29% from 3-point range.

3-pointer remains the Vols’ offense of choice

Yesterday, I wrote about Tennessee’s offensive identity morphing into a 3-point shooting one, not by choice but just by what the Vols are capable of doing on that end of the court.

That trend continued Wednesday night where Tennessee shot 26 3-pointers. The Vols first six shots on the afternoon were 3-pointers, and while Josiah-Jordan James knocked down two of those first six the Vols couldn’t even continue at that rate.

Tennessee would shoot 4 of 14 in the first half before making just 2 of 12 in the second half. 

Tennessee’s 23% shooting from beyond the arc marked the second straight game where the Vols shot under 30% from 3-point range.

“It goes back to not understanding how to work the game,” Barnes said. “I don’t care if we’ll drive the ball hard to at least give ourselves a chance to get fouled, but we just want to pass it around the perimeter and raise up and shoot it. I don’t particularly like to play that way.”

Tennessee clearly isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, but right now that’s simply what they are. The Vols don’t have the guards to beat opponents off the dribble and Tennessee hasn’t shown much commitment to throwing the ball inside.

Odds and Ins

*It wasn’t a shining debut for Uroš Plavšić after his long wait to finally return to the court. The Serbian native scored five points on 2 of 6 shooting while grabbing three rebounders. 

The redshirt-freshman 7-footer also struggled on defense when Georgia attacked him with high ball screens.

“I think I can help a lot I just need to fix some defensive mistakes,” Plavšić said. “We were switching a lot and I got blown by a couple of times and that shouldn’t happen. I just need to relax and stay in front of the ball.”

*Rick Barnes talked at length Monday about stopping the Bulldogs transition offense. Tennessee struggled to do that in the first half where the Bulldogs scored 10 points in transition while adding four points in the secondary break.

On the other side, Tennessee’s transition offense remained nonexistent where the Vols scored two points in transition.

“Santi (Santiago Vescovi) and Josiah (James) have to give us some leadership,” Barnes said of the Vols’ transition offense. “They don’t give us an initial thrust on offense and we just play at a much slower pace than we want to play.”

*In a lone positive note for Tennessee, the Vols cut their turnovers down on the night doing it just 10 times. It was also Vescovi’s lowest turnover margin of his young career as the Uruguay native turned it over just twice.

*Tennessee lost nearly every hustle stat on the night as the bulldogs bested them in points off turnovers, rebounds and steals. Tennessee’s lone hustle state win was its three blocks compared to just one from Georgia.

“It just comes down to effort and heart and fight,” James said. “We didn’t have it. We have to do a lot better. Just fighting and effort on defense.”

Up Next

Tennessee will look to bounce back Saturday when the Vols travel to Memorial Gymnasium to take on Vanderbilt. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network. 

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