published Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Hopson has 32, yet UT falls by 6

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    Georgia's Dustin Ware, right, and Tennessee's Melvin Goins (2) battle for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 in Knoxville, Tenn. Georgia won 69-63. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

KNOXVILLE -- Scotty Hopson did all he could to will his team to a win Saturday afternoon.

Tennessee's junior guard needed more help.

Hopson scored a career-high 32 points, but four Georgia players reached double figures as the Bulldogs overcame blowing a 15-point first-half lead for a 69-63 Southeastern Conference win at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Georgia started the game like they were playing for their NCAA tournament lives," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "We played like we were already in. You can't spot a good team that kind of lead in a game of that magnitude."

Hopson, who made 12 of 19 shots from the field, surpassed his 27-point performance when UT (16-11, 6-6) beat Pittsburgh in December. But Tobias Harris, who scored 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, was the only other UT player to score more than three points.

Eight other UT players combined to score 13 points and made just six of their 24 shots. Starters Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins made just one of 12 shots between them.

"My teammates are accountable," Hopson said. "They're out there doing their best as much as they can. Those guys have got game. They can play basketball. We know they can score. We've seen them score hundreds of points.

"Guys have scored throughout this whole season. We've just got to put it together. I don't think I've had a game like this, and I don't think they've had a game this bad, so I think once we all put it together and each of us have good games we'll be fine."

Jeremy Price, who played just nine minutes because of foul trouble in UT's 59-57 win in Athens in January, led the Bulldogs with 20 points. He made eight of nine shots and all four of his free throws, as Georgia (18-8, 7-5) made him a focus of their offense.

"He's a strong kid," said Harris, who drew part of the defensive assignment on Price. "He posted up real well, got his touches in there, got some fouls, and he just did a good job out there. He's a tough guy to cover down low, but it's just one thing I need to work on and will continue to work on."

Travis Leslie and Dustin Ware scored 15 and 12 points and Trey Thompkins had 11 points and nine rebounds for Georgia. The Bulldogs shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded UT 37-28.

After Harris' 3-pointer gave UT a brief two-point lead, UT didn't score the next 7:45 until Hopson's three-point play. Georgia scored 17 straight points during that stretch to take a 15-point lead. The Vols, who went on another four-minute first-half drought, made just nine of 32 shots in the first half while allowing Georgia to shoot 52 percent (14-of-27) but trailed by just eight at halftime.

"We came out, guys were kind of flat in warmups," Hopson said. "Me as a leader, I've got to take control of that and get guys pumped and motivated even more. I didn't set the tone as good as I probably should have, coming out and settling for jump shots. I've got to get to the rack and set the tone."

Said Harris: "I think we were out there settling for too many jump shots at the beginning instead of attacking their defense. When we were attacking their defense, that's when the game opened up and that's when we made our runs."

Hopson scored UT's first nine points of the second half, and Goins' steal and one-handed dunk briefly gave UT the lead. Harris' three-point play put the Vols up 48-45 before Georgia took control with a 14-4 spurt capped by Leslie's driving bank shot and free throw.

After UT pulled within two in the final minute, Ware made four consecutive foul shots and Price's breakaway slam finished off the Vols, who now find themselves squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.

"We play better when everybody contributes," Pearl said. "Offensively, it's Tobias and Scotty who are aggressive, and then the rest are not. You either have it or you don't. I told the team if you have more, it's time. I need more from pretty much everybody down the line."

Follow our Vols beat writer Patrick Brown on Twitter by following this link.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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Livn4life said...

Toast, it looks as if something has caught up with this year's basketball Vols. I don't get how they played as they have against really good competition, yet lose to a number of lesser teams. While Georgia was not a lesser team, they were beatable. Now I am almost concerned they will make the NCAA tournament and become a laughing stock. I hope I am wrong but am really disappointed in their overall effort this year. What is to come? We do not know.

February 20, 2011 at 7:25 a.m.
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