|No. 18 Tennessee tries to keep rolling at Georgia|
No. 18 Tennessee bounced back from its worst performance in months with a hard-fought win over South Carolina on Wednesday.
The surging Volunteers will try to continue to build momentum down the stretch of the regular season as they head to resilient Georgia on Saturday.
Tennessee has won seven of eight games, a run fueled by a consistent inside-out offensive attack and a relentless defense. The Volunteers (19-6, 9-4 SEC) are in second place in the conference and trail Auburn by two games with five remaining.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin compared Tennessee to his team which reached the Final Four last season, saying the Volunteers are "tied at the hip and relentless on both ends of the court," after Wednesday's loss in Knoxville.
Georgia is coming off potentially a season-saving win at Florida. Yante Maten, the SEC's leading scorer, scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and hit a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime.
The Bulldogs won 72-69 in overtime, behind Maten's 10th double-double of the season.
Georgia (14-11, 5-8) dropped six of seven before the win over Florida, and with two weeks left in the regular season, still has a long way to go to get back into the NCAA tournament hunt.
A win over the Volunteers would help.
"This league is so good and so deep that there are no easy nights," Georgia coach Mark Fox said after the win over the Gators. "I'm going to let these kids enjoy this win until I see them tomorrow because they're not going to be able to do anything about Tennessee until they know the game plan when we sit down tomorrow."
At least part of the Bulldogs' game plan will be focused on slowing down Tennessee sophomore forward Grant Williams. Williams scored 22 points and hit a big shot in the final seconds of the Volunteers' 70-67 win over South Carolina on Wednesday.
Williams has been Tennessee's most consistent offensive player. He leads Tennessee in scoring (16.2) and is second in rebounding (6.0). Admiral Schofield is second on the team in scoring (12.3) and leads the Vols in rebounding (6.2).
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says unquestionably his team is at its best when it plays through its two big men.
"I just have to get our guards after 25 games to know that," Barnes emphasized after the South Carolina win. "The reasons they have some looks at it is because people know we want to throw it in there, but still, that is just understanding how to play the game."
Georgia won both meetings against the Volunteers last season and has won three straight in the series overall. But the Bulldogs are the underdogs on Saturday against a Tennessee team that has played well on the road this year, going 8-4 away from Knoxville. Georgia is 9-3 at Stegeman Coliseum, which is expecting a sellout Saturday.
"There's obviously tremendous love within our team," Fox said after the win over Florida. "They care about each other."