Hoop Dawgs Extend Winning Streak

ATHENS -- Georgia extended its winning streak to three games and kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive Saturday with the same game of follow the leader it used the previous two games.

Senior point guard Rashad Wright turned in another spectacular defensive effort, and scored 22 points, to carry the Bulldogs past Tennessee 71-60 in front of 10,523 fans in Stegeman Coliseum. The win gave Georgia its first three-game winning streak in the conference and pushed it to 14-10 overall and 6-7 in the SEC.

"We haven't been scoring a lot of points, but we've been manhandling people on defense, especially Rashad," forward Chris Daniels said. "The last three or four games, he's pretty much taken out the point guard."

Not only did Wright register the second-highest scoring total of his career, but he held Tennessee sophomore C.J. Watson to the first field goal-less game of his career. Watson was 0-for-8 and finished with a season-low four points.

"The thing that jumps right out at you is C.J. Watson going 0-for-8," Coach Dennis Felton said. "That's major."

The last three point guards Georgia has played -- Watson, Kentucky's Cliff Hawkins and Florida's Anthony Roberson -- have shot 6 of 31 from the floor, including 3 of 18 from behind the 3-point line.

"We're behind this man right here," forward Jonas Hayes said when Wright walked into the locker room after the game.

Wright's teammates did indeed fall in behind him on the defensive end and held shooting guard Scooter McFadgon, the SEC's third-leading scorer, to 13 mostly meaningless points. McFadgon, who came in averaging 18.4 points, had seven points in the first 33 minutes.

"Rashad could do all that, and we could waste his effort by not pushing into the passing lanes behind him," Felton said. "We want to splinter their team and turn them into 1-on-1 players. We were talking as a coaching staff at halftime that it seemed that they had abandoned all their sets and were just playing off the drive. That's when you know our defense has been effective."

Overall, Tennessee committed 19 turnovers and hit just 2 of 11 3-point attempts.

"You can tell in the last several games (Georgia is) much more physical on the basketball than they were the first time we played them," Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said. "They really got up into C.J. He didn't have a field goal, and we've got to have him knock a couple of those down, but the reason he didn't was them getting into him and making it difficult for him."

Wright hit twice as many 3-pointers as the Vols and finished 4 of 7 from behind the line. He put the game away with a 3-pointer with 2:44 left that gave Georgia a 61-51 lead.

"The reason he shot it very well is our team passed it extremely well," Felton said. "Of his seven 3s, I can't remeber one that was a tough shot or a bad shot except for that quick 3 in transition."

Saturday's result was a 35-point turnaround from the teams' first meeting, when the Volunteers (13-10, 5-7) beat Georgia 89-65 in the SEC opener for both teams.

"This is probably the toughest kind of team for us to match up with because they are big and very athletic," Felton said.

The game featured six ties and seven lead changes in the first half. The Volunteers opened their biggest lead of the game when Brandon Crump scored with five minutes left in the first half to put Tennessee up 25-19. Crump led the Vols with 18 points on 6 of 8 shooting but fouled out. (Watson also fouled out and four other Vols finished the game with four fouls.)

Georgia slowly inched back into the game and tied the score at 27-27 following an intentional foul called on McFadgon against Georgia's Levi Stukes that led to a confrontation between the teams. By the time officials separated the players, Georgia's Marcus Sikes and Tennessee's Dane Bradshaw and Jemere Hendrix had been whistled for technicals.

The Bulldogs took the lead for good when Jonas Hayes hit a 15-foot jump shot on the final possession of the half to put Georgia up 31-29. Hayes finished with 16, and Damien Wilkins had 18 for the Bulldogs.

The game remained close for the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Tennessee trailed by just one when McFadgon hit a circus shot and was fouled. His free throw cut the Vols' deficit to one at 51-50 with 6:50 remaining, but Georgia scored 12 of the next 14 points to put the game away.

"It was another good positive step forward for our team," Felton said. "I really like the way we battled the whole game."

Georgia now must continue its winning streak on the road, where it has won just once this season, on Jan. 17 against Kentucky. The Bulldogs play South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Georgia has three more games in the regular season and probably needs to win at least two of them to give itself a shot at an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We couldn't have lost this game and still had aspirations of going to the tournament," Hayes said. "We need to keep this thing going for three more games."

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