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January 10, 2009

Same sad song

Georgia coach Dennis Felton could barely speak above a whisper following Saturday's SEC opener against Tennessee.

That's OK. There was only one way to sum up his team's 86-77 loss to the Vols, a game which saw his Bulldogs blow a double-digit lead for the second time in as many games.

Tuesday's contest at Georgia Tech saw the Bulldogs (9-7, 0-1) up 13 in the second half, only to falter on the boards and wind up losing by five.

Saturday, Georgia gave a repeat performance.

The Bulldogs led 54-44 with 12:26 to play before the Vols took over on the glass and rolled to the nine-point win.

"If Tech was a sign, this game from a rebounding standpoint was an exclamation point to our team as far as what we need to do," Felton said. "It's as simple as that."

The stats bear Felton out.

After being out-rebounded by eight to start the second half, the Bulldog used seven straight boards to build their 10-point cushion on a jumper by Dustin Ware.

But when the rebounding stopped, so did Georgia's chances for winning as Tennessee (10-4, 1-0) closed out the final 5:28 on a 19-7 run as the Bulldogs managed just one field goal over that stretch, a meaningless 3-pointer by Ricky McPhee.

Tennessee went on to outrebound Georgia 48-35, including 19-8 on the offensive glass.

"We had possessions where we got a little panicky. We had been doing a very good job of executing, getting exactly what we wanted, having them on their heels, scoring with good consistency and still ended up shooting 50 percent in the second half so overall our offense was pretty good," Felton said. "But down the stretch with about five minutes to go and they came back and it became a one-possession game, we had some panicky possessions where we rushed some shots."

Freshman Trey Thompkins could only shake his head.

Against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs led by 13 points in the second half before breakdowns on the boards helped do the team in.

"It was the same thing that bit us in the butt against Georgia Tech," Thompkins said. "Turning the ball over, rebounding It takes a team effort; no one guy can do it on his own."

Terrance Woodbury led Georgia with 18 points, followed by Thompkins with 14 and Ware with 13, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they had no answer for All-Conference forward Tyler Smith, who led all scorers with 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.

Smith was listed as doubtful before Saturday's contest after injuring a knee three nights against Gonzaga.

"What can you say about Tyler Smith? He hasn't practiced in two days and we did not gameplan for him to play," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "He was on crutches (Friday night). Guys in his shoes normally take some time off. But not Tyler Smith."

After trailing by four at the half, Georgia rallied early in the second half, going on a 22-7 run which culminated with Woodbury's jumper to give the Bulldogs their 54-44 lead before Tennessee regained its composure.

"It was a hard-fought game, a lot of good things happened for our team but the rebounding continued to be a weak spot that we've got to take care of," Felton said. "Obviously we didn't quite finish. We struggled to finish the deal after playing well enough to have a chance to win."

The Vols started quickly, scoring the game's first five points before two free throws by Corey Butler broke the ice after nearly four minutes had passed.

Georgia did grab a brief lead at 8-6 following back-to-back 3-pointers by Woodbury, but the advantage was short lived as Wayne Chism answered right back with a 3-pointer of his own.

Chism's basket started a 17-8 run by the Volunteers which resulted in a 24-16 lead with 8:24 to go in the half, eventually boosting it to 11 before Georgia outscored Tennessee 9-2 over the final 3:42 to draw within four.

A 3-pointer by Ware with 18 seconds capped the charge enabling the Bulldogs to go into half trailing just 36-32.

Georgia returns to action Wednesday night when the Bulldogs travel to Vanderbilt. Kentucky comes to Stegeman Coliseum next Sunday or a noon contest.



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