5 Observations: No. 3 Tennessee 96, Georgia 50

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    (Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

    The Vols opened up SEC play with a dominating performance on both ends of the court, and they sent a message to the rest of the conference.

    No. 3 Tennessee (12-1, 1-0 SEC) led from start to finish over Georgia (8-5, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday, and they prevailed by a score of 96-50.

    The only time Saturday’s game was even tied was when the scoreboard read 0-0 and 2-2 after two minutes of play. The Vols got out to a 5-2 lead after a three-pointer from Jordan Bone, and they never looked back.

    Tennessee had five players score in double figures, and they led Georgia in just about every major category. The Vols had more rebounds, assists, points off turnovers, points in the paint, and bench points on Saturday.  They also turned the all over fewer times than the Bulldogs.

    The Vols’ basketball team made Georgia’s basketball team pay for what UGA’s football team has done to UT’s football program the last two seasons.

    Here are our five biggest observations from the Vols’ decisive victory over Georgia to start the conference schedule.

    Lamonte Re-Turner

    After missing the last month-plus of action, junior guard Lamonte Turner made his return to the basketball court on Saturday.

    Turner last saw game action against Eastern Kentucky back on November 28th, and he sat out the previous six games while nursing a nagging shoulder issue that stemmed from off-season surgery he had.

    On Saturday, though, Turner saw his first game action in over a month.

    Turner played 15 minutes against Georgia and scored six points on 2-of-5 shooting. He was a perfect 2-of-2 from the free throw line, and he dished out two assists and pulled down a rebound.

    It wasn’t the electrifying return Vol fans were hoping for from Turner, but he knocked off some rust and showed why UT is much better with him in the rotation.

    Picking Up the Fouls

    Tennessee was proficient at drawing fouls on Saturday, and they were especially effective in that regard in the first half.

    The Vols drew 14 first half fouls from the Bulldogs, and they got Georgia’s best player in severe foul trouble very early on. Nicolas Claxton, who came into Saturday’s game averaging a double-double, picked up four fouls in the first half and was basically a non-factor the entire game because of that. He ended the game with just six points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.

    Tennessee used those fouls to their advantage and went to the free throw line 26 times as a team. UT’s players made 22 of those shots from the charity stripe.

    Everyone Gets to Score

    The Vols had five players score in double-digits on Saturday, and 10 Vols scored at least once.

    Jordan Bowden led the way with 20 points off the bench on 8-of-13 shooting. He also contributed three rebounds and two assists. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield were a dynamic duo once again. Both scored 18 points, and Williams added in eight rebounds and five assists while Schofield picked up six rebounds and three assists.

    Jordan Bone was solid as UT’s point guard, scoring 11 points and picking up five assists. Kyle Alexander turned in another double-double, accumulating 12 points and 14 rebounds while making six of his eight field goals.

    Lamonte Turner had six points, Derrick Walker scored five points, Jalen Johnson had two points, and walk-ons Brad Woodson and Lucas Campbell also scored two points.

    Which Was Better?

    The toughest question to answer from Saturday’s game might be which looked better for the Vols: Their offense or their defense?

    Tennessee shot 53.1 percent from the floor as a team and dished out 25 assists on 34 of their made buckets. They out-rebounded Georgia 45-30, including a 11-9 edge on offensive rebounds. The Vols also dominated down low, scoring 48 points in the paint compared to just 26 by Georgia.

    But for as good as UT’s offense was, the defense might’ve been better.

    Georgia was held to just 32.1 percent shooting as a team, and they missed their first 14 three-point shots. They finished the game making just one of their 20 threes. Tennessee finished the game with seven blocked shots and five steals. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over 14 times, while Tennessee turned it over just nine times all game.

    Both the offense and defense were rolling for the Vols on Saturday, and it showed.

    Sending a Message

    Tennessee didn’t just win their SEC opener on Saturday; they sent a message to the rest of the conference.

    The Vols’ emphatic win over Georgia told the rest of the SEC that they are, in fact, the top team in the conference. With No. 13 Kentucky falling on the road to Alabama and No. 12 Auburn dropping a game to NC State last month, the Vols left no doubt in anyone’s minds that they’re the top team in the conference right now.