published Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Vols top Georgia 59-57

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    Georgia forward Trey Thompkins (33) attempts to block a shot attempt by Tennessee guard Scotty Hopson (32) during the first half of Tuesday's game at Stegeman Coliesum in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/Richard Hamm)

ATHENS, Ga. — Brian Williams repeatedly kept barking his self-given new nickname in the hallways underneath Stegeman Coliseum.

"Kobe!"

Tennessee's senior center did his best impression of the Los Angeles Lakers star's late-game heroics Tuesday night, making the winning basket as time expired to give the Volunteers a 59-57 Southeastern Conference victory at Georgia.

"With that shot, yeah, I'm like Kobe or like a mix with Dirk [Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks], I guess," the 6-foot-10 Williams said. "Just to hit it with no time left, that's a great feeling.

"I was just trying to run away 'cause people get injured [celebrating]. I was trying to run away from my teammates. I didn't even know I made it till my teammates ran after me."

After a 3-pointer by Georgia's Dustin Ware tied the game with 59.3 seconds left, UT (12-6, 2-2) got two possessions after Melvin Goins chased down teammate Scotty Hopson's missed shot.

The Vols ran down the clock, and Williams wrestled the rebound of Tobias Harris' partially blocked 3-pointer away from 6-8 Chris Barnes and shot the ball — all in one motion — as the buzzer sounded.

After a brief review, officials counted the basket.

"That's just a flat-out great play right there," said Harris, who scored 15 points to go along with five rebounds, three steals and five blocked shots. "This is a real big win for us."

All four of UT's games during coach Bruce Pearl's eight-game SEC suspension have come down to the final seconds of regulation. The Vols lost the first two to Arkansas and Florida but have taken last-moment wins in their past two games.

"The kids have shown resiliency throughout these four games," associate head coach Tony Jones said. "The SEC may not be the best conference in basketball, but the SEC East is the best division in basketball. All these games could go down to the last possession, and that's what happened in each of these four games that this coaching staff has coached."

But UT's offensive execution down the stretch wasn't always pretty, but it was effective.

The Vols' Josh Bone answered Sherrard Brantley's go-ahead trey with a runner from the foul line at the shot-clock buzzer for his only basket of the game. Before the frantic final sequence, Williams made a layup on an assist by Goins, who tossed a desperation pass in Williams' direction to avoid a traveling call after his path to the basket was shut off.

"I think we know that we need to execute down the stretch," Harris said. "In the beginning of the season we weren't doing that, but that's the difference between our team from then and now, and we're able to get in close games and execute."

"I think the players garnered some confidence after coming back from 17 points [down] against Vanderbilt [on Saturday]," Jones said. "We played with a committed effort -- that's something we talked about."

Hopson scored nine of UT's first 14 points and finished with 15, and Harris hit three consecutive 3s in a first-half stretch that erased Georgia's largest lead (28-21).

"The big thing was starting out well," Hopson said. "Me being a veteran player and coming off the game with Vandy where I didn't have such a great first half, I knew getting a better start to this game was going to carry over."

"I saw them back off of me," Harris said, "and I knew I would have to shoot some 3-pointers to make our driving lanes a little bit better."

Gerald Robinson and Travis Leslie led Georgia (13-4, 2-2) with 14 points each, but UT limited SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting.

UT, which shot just 43 percent and attempted only seven free throws, out-rebounded Georgia 34-28 and held the Bulldogs to 42.6 percent shooting.

"That's Tennessee basketball," Hopson said. "Understanding that holding teams to low-percentage shooting is what's going to win us games ultimately."

"We outrebounded them," Jones said, "we out-toughed them and we controlled the basketball game in a tough venue. It just shows what our guys are capable of."

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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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