Turnovers, Vols' rally undermine Bulldogs

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ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia opened Southeastern Conference play much like it ended its nonconference schedule -- failing to hold on to a second-half lead.

The Bulldogs' late turnovers and missed opportunities opened the door for Tennessee to rally for an 86-77 win at Stegeman Coliseum Saturday.

Tennessee erased a 10-point second-half deficit by outscoring Georgia 32-23 over the final 11:35, including a 13-0 run before Ricky McPhee's 3-pointer with five seconds left.

"We're definitely having trouble finishing games," Georgia freshman point guard Dustin Ware said.

Georgia (9-7, 0-1) held second-half leads in its past three games -- all losses -- against Missouri, Georgia Tech and Tennessee. But poor offensive execution and inadequate rebounding made the difference. No. 15 Tennessee (10-4, 1-0) beat the Bulldogs on the offensive glass, turning 19 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points.

"It was really a product of finishing the game, again, rebounding," Georgia senior guard Corey Butler said. "When we took control of the game, I think we were up (10) points, we took control of the glass. But when you saw the game slipping, that's when we lost control of the glass."

Tennessee's Tyler Smith set game highs with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. His status was doubtful as early as Saturday morning after he injured his knee against Gonzaga Wednesday. Smith played 34 minutes and hit nine of 18 shots from the field.

Terrance Woodbury scored a team-high 18 for Georgia. Trey Thompkins added 14 and Ware 11.

Georgia took a 54-44 lead with 12:26 left when Ware hit a jumper. But Tennessee hit five shots in a row -- four layups and a 3-pointer by Smith -- to pull within 59-55 with 10:20 left.

"We struggled to finish the deal and we were playing well enough to have a chance to win," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "Down the stretch we had possessions where we got a little panicky where we had been doing a very good job of executing and getting exactly what we wanted. When the game got close and we lost our cushion, we had some panicky possessions where we rushed shots."

Tennessee's Bobby Maze missed the second of two free throws with 5:06 left, but Smith grabbed the rebound. Tatum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 71-71. On the Vols' next possession after he hit one of two free throws, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a layup to give Tennessee a 73-72 lead.

Georgia took its last lead when Woodbury hit two free throws with 3:09 left to make it 74-73. Tennessee hit three consecutive layups and a pair of free throws to give the Vols an 81-74 advantage with 1:11 left.

Reach Roger Clarkson at roger.clarkson@morris.com.


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