Georgia falls to No. 5 Tennessee, 85-79
ATHENS, Ga. – The Georgia men’s basketball team dropped its first home game of the season, falling to No. 5 Tennessee, 85-79, on Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 10,523 spectators inside Stegeman Coliseum.
Jabri Abdur-Rahim led the Bulldogs (12-4, 2-1 SEC) in scoring for the fifth time this season, contributing 21 points on five made 3-pointers and five rebounds. Noah Thomasson added 14 points while RJ Melendez and Silas Demary Jr. each had 13 points with six and four rebounds respectively. The Volunteers (12-4, 2-1 SEC) ended Georgia’s 10-game win streak, moving the Bulldogs to 10-1 inside Stegeman Coliseum this season and 23-5 in head coach Mike White’s two seasons at the helm of the program.
The Bulldogs struck first with a pair of offensive rebounds leading to a made 3-pointer from Jabri Abdur-Rahim. The Volunteers rattled off an 8-0 run after converting an and-one free throw following the first media timeout, creating a 14-6 deficit for Georgia. Despite forcing six turnovers and committing none in the opening 12 minutes, Tennessee created an 11-point lead from a barrage of 3-pointers, making five of its first 10 attempts. The Bulldogs capped off the first half with a 9-0 run in the final 3:47, holding the Volunteers to seven straight missed free throws to trail 42-37 headed to the locker room.
Following a flagrant foul committed by Tennessee on Abdur-Rahim, the senior made both free throws and a shot from deep to give Georgia a four-point lead. Blue Cain’s second shot from deep with 6:24 remaining gave Georgia a 75-64 advantage, its largest lead of the day, but Tennessee managed to get it down to five less than a minute later. The Volunteers closed the game on a 21-4 run, reclaiming the lead from a 3-pointer with 1:56 to go to take the win.
Georgia will play its first conference game on the road this coming Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 9 p.m. against South Carolina. The tilt inside Colonial Life Arena will be broadcast on ESPNU. The Bulldogs split its two games against the Gamecocks during the 2022-23 campaign.
Five Fast Facts
• Jabri Abdur-Rahim scored 13 points in the first five minutes of the second half.
• This is the second time under Mike White that the Bulldogs had less than 10 turnovers against a top five team. Prior to the eight turnovers against Alabama last seasons, the last time was in 2012.
• Georgia opened the second half by extending its run to 15-0 with back-to-back three-pointers by Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Noah Thomasson.
• Tennessee came in the matchup allowing opponents to score an average of 65.1 points per game, and Georgia scored 79.
• Blue Cain knocked down three 3-pointers in the game, the fourth time of his career making at least three.
Head Coach Mike White: “Incredible environment. I’m really appreciative to all of our fans that showed up, how they showed up, as active as they were. It’s the loudest that I’ve ever heard Stegeman, ever, and it’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to capitalize and reward our fans for helping us, being as a big of a factor as they were – in a game where we had chances down the stretch.”
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- The starting lineup was freshman Silas Demary Jr., senior Jabri Abdur-Rahim and graduates Noah Thomasson, RJ Sunahara and Russel Tchewa.
- The Bulldogs capped off the first half with a 9-0 run in the final 3:47, holding the Volunteers to seven straight missed free throws to trail by five into the break.
- The Bulldogs off the bench contributed 20 of the team’s 37 points going into the half break.
- Georgia opened the second half by extending its run to 15-0 with back-to-back three-pointers by Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Noah Thomasson.
- Georgia’s 14 3-pointers made are now the most this season, the most since the Auburn game last season.
- The Bulldogs outrebounded the Volunteers by five in the second half.
- Georgia went 82.6% on free throws.
- Tennessee came in the matchup allowing opponents to score an average of 65.1 points per game, and Georgia scored 79.
- This is the second time under Mike White that the Bulldogs had less than 10 turnovers against a top five team. Prior to the eight turnovers against Alabama last seasons, the last time was in 2012.
- Jabri Abdur-Rahim posted his fourth career 20+ point game.
- Noah Thomasson has posted three-straight games with three or more 3-point field goals made.
- Blue Cain posted his fourth career game with three or more 3-point field goals made.
- Jabri Abdur-Rahim’s five 3-pointers made matched his career high for the fourth time.
- Noah Thomasson’s third straight game with three or more 3-pointers.
GEORGIA HEAD COACH MIKE WHITE
“Incredible environment. I’m really appreciative to all of our fans that showed up, how they showed up, as active as they were. It’s the loudest that I’ve ever heard Stegeman, ever, and it’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to capitalize and reward our fans for helping us, being as a big of a factor as they were – in a game where we had chances down the stretch. Credit Tennessee – one of the best teams in the country. They have a chance to be a Final Four team. [Tennessee’s Dalton] Knecht was phenomenal down the stretch, offensively. They’ve got veteran guards. Zakai Zeigler is such a presence defensively. He does so many things that don’t show up in the stat sheet. The way he blew up our sideline offense, out of bounds defensively, with his activity and energy. I thought he was a huge factor, as well. I thought we played really hard. A lot of things we have to clean up. We have to continue to get better, but I thought we had some good individual performances. I thought we played with a lot of confidence and rode the environment in our building.”
On what the difference was late in the game…
“They fought for every inch on the court, defensively. We struggled to get a clean look when it most mattered, but then we got down five or six there – what was it? Five or six? We actually got open looks, but they just didn’t go. Could’ve made it more interesting. And then our inability to get stops, to slow Knecht, and to get them off the foul line.”
On where the team struggled to stop Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht…
“Sometimes, good offense just beats good defense. He hit a couple that were heavily contested. I thought we had a couple with ill-advised fouls where we were pressuring him a little bit, and then he just gets easy ones at the foul line. You know, at times, he’s able to get to the rim because we’re overextended a little bit, and we’re not as heavy in the gaps as we would like to be. That said, you know they have Zakai Zeigler and [Santiago] Vescovi – guys that can make shots – and that’s what makes them who they are. I think that they’re as good defensively as they’ve been, and potentially even better offensively.”
On his message to the team after the loss…
“You know a few. One is the fact that there’s a lot of room for growth – continued growth. And we have to get back at it tomorrow. There’re 15 more opportunities, then an SEC tournament, and if we’re good enough, potentially something in the post season. It’s a long process, and we have to get back to work tomorrow. We have to watch it, and then we have to flush it. And the next one will be equally as difficult, but it’s a great opportunity, as well. But that’s it. This is the SEC. The other message they want from me is, you know, all these kids get noise, positively, negatively, and individually, and let’s handle that with maturity because we’ve handled success that right way over these past 10. Let’s see how we handle some adversity. It’s been a while. But also, let’s not ever be thrilled about a loss. We played them close. We had a chance. The people that say, ‘That’s a great effort’ – that’s not what we are about. We’re trying to win those. Let’s be positive about the positive things that we did, and let’s continue to work to get better at the things we need to get better at.”
#1 | Jabri Abdur-Rahim | Sr. | G
On the final minutes of the game…
“We just didn’t do a good job of taking care of the basketball, and we struggled to get some stops late. Credit to them, they’re a good team, and they executed better than us down the stretch. It’s that simple.”
On the impact of the crowd inside Stegeman Coliseum…
“It was very electric. We appreciate all of Dawg Nation for coming out and supporting us. We really needed it, and we’re going to need it the rest of the season. The SEC is tough, and with them behind us I feel like we have a really really good chance every night. I appreciate all the students for coming out.”
On what the team learned tonight…
“I think we learned that we can play with anybody. We weren’t scared coming in, and we knew they were top five in the country and that they have really good players. We feel like we do too, and we feel like we have a good team. For about 30 minutes, we showed it, but we just failed to execute down the stretch. I feel like we learned that we can play with anybody, like I said. We have a good team, and we have talented players. We should be confident in that going forward.”
On what the team felt only trailing by five at halftime..
“We felt like at halftime we were down five and probably played our worst half of the season. We had a lot of confidence going in, because we knew we were going to play better in the second half. To only be down five and we were playing really really bad gave us a lot of confidence. That’s what sparked the run in the second half.”
#4 | Silas Demary Jr. | Fr. | G
On what allowed Georgia to take the lead early in the second half…
“Definitely playing fast. We get the ball coming back in. We knew we were down four or five points. We just wanted to preach on having a good second half because a few games coming out in the second half, we’ve been pretty slow. We’ve given up a lot of points in that first media, so we were just preaching ‘come out fast,’ and that helped give us that push in the first two medias.”
On what was working from three-point range…
“Definitely getting paint touches. Paint-touch threes, you convert a lot. When you get two feet in the paint, people have to converge, and you can kick out and hit open teammates. So any time we hit the paint or you create disadvantages to get those threes and you can make extra passes, I feel like those open threes were falling.”
On his takeaways from playing against a top-five team at home…
“I feel like what we take from that loss, we can be in those big-time games. We believe in ourselves. We practice hard every day. I just feel like we can learn how to execute better down the stretch, learn how to not get comfortable at times because I feel like when we got comfortable, Tennessee took advantage of us, and we had a few mistakes. So I feel like not being comfortable and completing games.”
On how to build off the 10-game win streak despite today’s loss…
“Just build on the positive things we’ve done in that win streak, even the negative things we’ve done at times, and trying to figure out how we can make everything better. We can be as positive as much as we can throughout the whole 40 minutes, so just taking away all the positives.”