KNOXVILLE - No team has held Georgia sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope under 11 points all season. But after Wednesday night's 68-62 victory over Tennessee, only the Volunteers have allowed him as many as 24 in a Southeastern Conference game.
"You've got to take more pride in your defense," UT coach Cuonzo Martin said after watching the Bulldogs' leading scorer total nine of UGA's final 14 points after the Vols pulled within 54-53 with 4:56 to play.
"You don't want to let their best player beat you. You want to make somebody else beat you."
Caldwell-Pope was not the only Bulldog who contributed to the Vols' sixth loss in nine SEC games and their 10th defeat in 21 games overall. Freshman guard Kenny Gaines came off the bench to score 12 while hitting five of shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers. Point guard Vincent Williams added 10 points.
But it was KCP, as he's known around the UGA campus, who did the most to waste another double-double by UT's Jarnell Stokes, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight made free throws in 10 attempts.
"We came out flat," said UT senior guard Skylar McBee, who scored nine points off the bench. "We've got to play better defense, especially against ball screens."
Added junior guard Jordan McRae, who again led the Vols with 17 points but also committed five of their 11 first-half turnovers: "Coming out sloppy against an SEC team is never a good idea."
But that's what happened. Yet the Vols' 35-26 halftime deficit could be explained by a single stat that had nothing to do with offensive miscues: Averaging 5.5 3-pointers a game in SEC play, the Bulldogs bagged seven 3-point shots in the opening half.
Then they finished with a season-high 11 behind the arc in 20 attempts.
"We didn't expect them to be able to shoot as well as they did, other than Caldwell-Pope," McRae said. "They really surprised us there."
Still, the Vols fought back to tie it at 43 early in the second half, then pulled within one with 4:56 to go before Caldwell-Pope again took over, swishing a long 3 from the top of the key to move Georgia back in front by four.
"Huge play," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "Stokes is a great player and we couldn't guard him through that stretch. That was a big basket for us."
This was a huge victory for Fox's team (10-10, 5-4) heading into Saturday's visit from Texas A&M.
"We've been in a lot of close games and lost some of them," he said. "Those experiences have helped us have a little more poise now."
Especially when the team's scoring leader is hitting a season high in SEC play.