Tennessee 82, Georgia 71
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—JaJuan Smith scored 22 points and Ramar Smith added a career-high 21 points to help pull Tennessee out of a slump with an 82-71 win over Georgia on Wednesday.
The Volunteers (15-7, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) won for the first time without the league’s leading scorer Chris Lofton, who missed a third game with a sprained ankle.
Tennessee entered the game after losing five of its last six—all losses on the road.
The Bulldogs (13-7, 5-3) were one of the hottest teams in the SEC, winning five of the last six in a stretch that included wins over three straight ranked teams. But they trailed all but a few seconds in the opening minutes of the game and lost their fifth straight to Tennessee.
Jordan Howell had a career-high 11 points with three 3-pointers and Duke Crews added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Vols.
Georgia was led by Sundiata Gaines with 21 points while Levi Stukes and Takais Brown each had 12.
The Bulldogs cut it to seven with 9:17 left, but freshman Ramar Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 61-48.
Georgia had another chance to trim it more when Terrance Woodbury made a free throw but missed the second and Stukes got the rebound. Mike Mercer hit a 3 to cut it to 63-55, but Ramar Smith scored again for a 10-point lead. The Bulldogs couldn’t get any closer.
Lofton leads the SEC in scoring at 21.5 points a game but hasn’t played since spraining his right ankle on Jan. 20 against South Carolina. The Vols then lost at Mississippi and Kentucky.
Ramar and JaJuan Smith and Howell tried to do their best impression of Lofton’s long-range shooting. JaJuan Smith was 5-of-8 beyond the arc while Ramar Smith was 3-of-4.
Georgia came in with a much-improved team from a year ago and are having the best season so far under fourth-year coach Dennis Felton, but the Bulldogs couldn’t keep Tennessee from losing at home. Georgia hasn’t won in Knoxville since 2001.
The Bulldogs were only 6-of-26 from 3-point range and shot 38.5 percent (25-of-65) from the floor despite having only 10 turnovers to Tennessee’s 18.
The only point in the game when Tennessee didn’t lead was at 3-3 in the opening minute.
Georgia ended the first half with an 8-1 run—six of the points coming at the foul line—to cut Tennessee’s lead to 37-33 at the break.
The Vols were up by 11 after Crews’ dunk with 4:27 remaining, but his free throw was Tennessee’s only point the rest of the way.
The Vols grabbed the lead early and pulled away with a quick 7-0 run midway through the half to go ahead by as many as 13. The Bulldogs responded with an 8-2 run to cut it to 28-21 before making another surge in the final minutes.