ATHENS — Georgia defeated Tennessee 73-62 just two weeks ago. But as they return the game with a trip to Knoxville today, Rocky Top must look like Mt. Everest for the Bulldogs.
First of all, Georgia is coming off an absolutely crushing defeat the hands of Texas A&M. The Bulldogs (16-13, 7-10 SEC), after trailing most of the game, led by four points within the final two minutes. Then they missed a free throw, threw the ball away and failed to get off a final shot without calling any of their three remaining timeouts in the final seconds to lose 61-60.
Afterward, only coach Mark Fox spoke with media. He told his players they didn’t have to.
“So I apologize to you guys,” Fox told reporters. “They’re obviously very disappointed in the loss.”
Indeed, it’s Fox who is on the hook for the loss. And now he is under considerable pressure to keep his job as the Bulldogs move forward toward the postseason. Under his watch, Georgia is 161-131 and 77-78 in SEC play. What’s more, the Bulldogs have reached the NCAA tournament just twice in his nine seasons and never won a game therein.
To earn a berth this season, Georgia now will need to win next week’s SEC Tournament in St. Louis. But first it will have to face an opponent that is frothing at the mouth for a rematch.
Tennessee is expecting Thompson-Boling Arena to be sold out for Saturday’s regular-season finale. A win over the Bulldogs will give the Vols a share of the SEC regular-championship. It would be theirs alone should Auburn lose to South Carolina at home.
“That’s what you play for; you want to be able to win championships,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told reporters Friday. “We’re in position to do that, obviously, and I think that means we’ve got a group of guys that have worked hard and believed when a lot of people outside probably didn’t believe.”
It’s probably only inside the Bulldogs’ locker room where you’ll find anybody who believes they could still turn around this season. But they’ve had a lot of success against Tennessee of late. Georgia has won five straight in the series, the longest streak against the Vols since winning straight between 1993-95.
The Bulldogs won two weeks ago in Athens the same way they usually do, with Yante Maten dominating inside. The 6-foot-8 senior’s game-high 19 points led five Bulldogs with double-digit points.
This time around, Georgia will be facing a tidal wave of Big Orange support. The Vols haven’t had much to cheer about when it comes to their high-profile men’s sports of late. Clinching an SEC title against the nemesis Bulldogs will serve as prime motivation.
Meanwhile, they’ll face a Georgia team whose confidence surely must he shaken at this point.
“We’ll regroup and try and do what we’ve done all year, which is let the last game go in the rear view mirror and focus forward,” Fox said.
Georgia-Tennessee basketball: Game info, details
- Time: Tip-off is at 6 p.m. ET
- Date: March 3, 2018
- Location: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
- Records: Georgia is 16-13 overall, 7-10 SEC; Tennessee is 22-7 overall, 12-5 SEC.
How can I watch the game?
The game can be watched on SEC Network.
How can I live stream the game?
The game can be seen on the WatchESPN app. (Cable or satellite subscription required.)
Projected Bulldogs starting lineup
- Guard: Junior Turtle Jackson
- Guard: Senior Juwan Parker
- Forward: Freshman Nicolas Claxton
- Forward: Senior Yante Maten
- Forward: Junior Derek Ogbeide
What’s next for Georgia?
Georgia will play in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis. Day and time is to be determined by seeding.