Dogfight expected

Dogfight expected

February 19th, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

KNOXVILLE-Chances are the Georgia basketball Bulldogs still vividly remember what happened the last time they played Tennessee a month ago.

So it's not surprising the Volunteers are expecting the Bulldogs to enter today's game in Knoxville with the motive of revenge added to their desperate need for a resume win.

"As much as their backs are against the wall, our backs are against the wall, too," UT guard Cameron Tatum said. "This game is very important to us. They're going to come up here trying to get that one back. We expect it to be a dogfight."

In the Volunteers' 59-57 win in Athens on Jan. 18, UT center Brian Williams wrestled an offensive rebound from Georgia's Chris Barnes and sank an off-balance putback at the buzzer. Possessions earlier, UT's Josh Bone made a foul-line runner after it appeared the shot clock had expired.

"They're going to come in fierce," said UT guard Scotty Hopson, who scored 15 points in that game, "because they felt like they left one on the table, they felt like they let that one go and felt they got cheated or [got] the weaker hand of the deal."

Although Georgia, whose NCAA tournament hopes took a major blow with Wednesday night's second-half collapse in a loss to Vanderbilt, may have extra motivation from the previous meeting, both teams can use what happened in that game to their advantage today.

"We both have the benefit of seeing what each one of us did in the last matchup," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "Which team's improved the most since then? Both have had some great wins, and both have had some disappointing losses, some close losses.

Said Tatum: "You pick up on things that you scouted the first time that you probably didn't execute the way you would like to. You watch the film and see what you did wrong, and you try to eliminate those looks because they're doing the same thing.

"They're watching and they're seeing what worked against us, so I'm sure whatever worked against us they're going to go back and try to duplicate those same sets."

Tatum, a Georgia native, is very familiar with half of the Bulldogs' starting lineup. He played in Lithonia with Bulldogs star forward Trey Thompkins. Tatum's Tucker High School team also shared a region with the Columbia High School squad in Decatur that featured Georgia guard Travis Leslie and forward Jeremy Price.

Hopson and Leslie, each team's most athletic player, squared off against one another at the Paul Pierce Skills Academy last summer. They guarded each other in the January meeting, and both got into foul trouble because of it.

"Travis Leslie's a great player and a good friend of mine," Hopson said. "I know he's looking forward to this matchup. We're two hard competitors, and we're going to go at it in this basketball game."

The teams combined to shoot 40 percent in a low-scoring slugfest of a second half in Athens, and Tennessee coach Pearl expects the Bulldogs to bring that same defensive intensity. UT was sloppy against South Carolina on Wednesday, turning the ball over 16 times.

"I know that Georgia's played great defense and really improved in that area," Pearl said. "Georgia's playing a lot of man-to-man. South Carolina played a lot of zone. Georgia's going to get after us, make our looks tough.

"They're as hungry as we are."