KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No sense dipping their toes into SEC play. The Georgia Bulldogs dove right into the deep end with an opening trip here to Rocky Top to face No. 3-ranked Tennessee.
Then they nearly drowned.
The Bulldogs were down 29 points by halftime and would get down by as 49 before it was over. Tennessee finally threw Georgia a life preserver late in the second half and let the Bulldogs leave sold-out Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678) dragging a 96-50 loss.
The defeat was the most lopsided in the 106-year history of the Georgia-Tennessee rivalry and dropped the Bulldogs to 8-5 (0-1 SEC). Georgia will try to get back in the win column when Vanderbilt visits Stegeman Coliseum Wednesday night at 6:30 (TV: SEC Network; radio WSB 750-AM & 95.5 FM).
The loss left the talkative Tom Crean almost speechless.
“Our compete level was not high at all,” said the veteran coach, in his first season with the Bulldogs. “We played extremely lethargic. Our plan was to come in here and run but we didn’t really do any of that. I’m disappointed in our competitive level and I’m not sure what we made them earn.”
The defending SEC champion Vols (12-1, 1-0) looked like they could repeat. With the game billed as a matchup between Tennessee’s star forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield and Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds, it was no contest. Williams and Schofield combined for 36 points to 6 for the Claxton and Hammonds. Guard Jordan Bowden added 20 off the bench for the Vols and Kyle Alexander had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
In addition to poor effort, Georgia couldn’t shoot. At one point, Tennessee was 6-of-12 from 3-point range while Georgia was 0-for-14. The Vols led 80-35 at the time. The Bulldogs finished 1-for-20 (5 percent) behind the arc. They were also out-rebounded by 15, 45-30.
The referees didn’t make Georgia’s task any easier. The Bulldogs’ interior players simply weren’t allowed to defend, or just couldn’t without fouling. Ogbeide had two fouls in the game’s first minute and Claxton and Hammonds were whistled for another six in the first half. That included four for Claxton, who left the floor with 4:01 remaining before halftime and did not to return until well into the second half.
“It certainly was hard to play aggressive with all that foul trouble on our side,” said Ogbeide, who managed to play 24 minutes and led the Bulldogs with 17 points. “It definitely hindered us. It made everything harder and forced us to play a certain way.
By then, the game was ridiculously out of hand. Tennessee’s largest lead of 49 points came at the 7:20 mark. It wasn’t until 6:06 remained that Barnes started sitting his frontline players.
“Obviously they had a tough day,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of the Bulldogs. “I’ve been on that side, too. They’re a better shooting team than they showed today. That’s a team that’s going to win some games in this league.”