No. 16 Tennessee is back in action on Wednesday night when it squares off against Georgia inside of Thompson-Boling Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The Vols enter the contest coming off of a win over Kentucky inside of Rupp Arena on Saturday night. It looked like the Vols were well on their way to a second consecutive embarrassing loss after losing to Ole Miss in Oxford the game prior. Tennessee dealt with foul trouble in the first half of its matchup against Kentucky as six different Vols had two fouls by the time halftime rolled around, leading to a 42-34 lead at the break for the Wildcats.
Tennessee (13-4, 6-4 SEC) didn’t get off to a great start in the second half either, but went on a 26-6 run towards the end of the game to pull off the win. The Vols were led by their five-star freshman guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer. They combined for 50 points on the night, 31 of those points coming in the second half as they scored 22 of the 26 points on the run to win the game.
Georgia (12-6, 5-6 SEC) is coming off of a 73-70 win over Vanderbilt in Athens on Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Bulldogs are on the first three-game winning streak in three seasons under head coach Tom Crean.
Tennessee leads the all-time series with Georgia, 96-61, dating to 1913. Tonight will be the 158th meeting overall and the only matchup between the two teams this season. The Bulldogs have dominated the series in recent years, winning seven of the last 10 meetings. UT is 59-15 against UGA when the series is played in Knoxville and have won two straight over the Bulldogs on Rocky Top.
A win over Georgia would extend Tennessee’s active home win streak over the Bulldogs to three games and improve UT’s record on Wednesdays this season to 4-0.
Managing editor Ben McKee, as well as RTI contributor Blake Von Hagen, make their predictions for Saturday’s game between the Vols and Bulldogs:
Will this be the game Tennessee finally shows it has truly turned the corner? We thought the Vols turned the corner following the win over Kansas and then they went on the road to Ole Miss and laid a turd. For 30 minutes in Lexington, they looked like they were going to lay another one. But then Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer stepped up and got things turned around. Did Tennessee learn something about itself during those 10 minutes? I think so.
Georgia has been playing well of late and will look to get out in transition, an area Tennessee hasn’t always been quick to do. The Vols will rather play at a slower pace, but they learned on Saturday night that it may not be what is best for this current roster. What is best is to let Johnson and Springer loose.
Pick: Tennessee, 72-61
MVP: Keon Johnson AND Jaden Springer
What Georgia wants to do fits right into what Johnson and Springer do best. It may just be a one-game sample size, but I believe Tennessee, as well as the two freshman, turned a page in Lexington. I think we’ll see another big game from them against the Bulldogs.
Georgia might have been picked to finish second-to-last in the SEC, but it is playing much better than that right now. The Bulldogs are sitting squarely in the middle of the conference standings and are riding a three-game winning streak. They will be looking to push the pace and make Tennessee uncomfortable in transition on Wednesday. KenPom lists Georgia at No. 27 in average possession length nationally. The Vols would rather play a game in the upper 60s, while Georgia wants to get into the 70s or 80s.
This pick comes down to whether or not Tennessee unleashes Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson again on Wednesday. They were better than Kentucky in the open court on Saturday and will be better than Georgia in this game. If the Vols refuse to get out in transition and try to win the tempo battle, the Bulldogs are more than capable of making Tennessee fans nervous deep into the second half. I expect Barnes to let Johnson and Springer run throughout the night, which will give the Vols the edge.
Pick: Tennessee, 77-66
MVP: Tennessee freshman guard Keon Johnson
Johnson is coming off his first career SEC Freshman of the Week honors. He averaged 19.0 points in games at Ole Miss and Kentucky—Johnson should pick up where he left off against a Georgia team that wants to get out in transition.