ATHENS, Ga. - As an encore to Greene-to-Haynes for last-second drama against Tennessee, Ezra Williams delivered a game-winner against the Vols that was every bit as unlikely.
With the final seconds leaving the clock in regulation, Williams grabbed a loose ball from a teammate and launched the decisive 3-point shot from the corner to give Georgia a 73-70 victory over the Volunteers Saturday night. With the game tied at 70-70, Georgia called a timeout with 11.3 seconds left and Coach Jim Harrick instructed point guard Rashad Wright to look for a back-door play. Hoping for a game-winning basket or a foul, Wright instead had to start to drive toward the basket when he thought the back-door play was developing too slowly.
Wright was stripped of the ball by Tennessee's Thaydeus Holden, and the ball rolled out toward Williams and teammate Chris Daniels. It was Daniels who reached the ball first, and just as he was contemplating a shot, he heard someone say "Give it here.''
"Luckily, it was Ezra,'' Daniels said. "He just took it from me.''
Fearing the game clock was about to expire, Williams launched the shot that found only net as the buzzer sounded.
Said Wright: "I thought it was going to overtime. I looked around and the ball was going toward (Williams). When he shot it, I just laid their on the floor and looked at it go in.''
Last year, Georgia needed two overtimes to beat Tennessee in Athens. With Georgia already drained from an emotional 88-84 win at No. 8 Kentucky Wednesday night, the Bulldogs wanted no part of another overtime.
"I wanted to end it,'' Williams said. "I didn't want to go through that again.''
Williams was only 4-for-13 on 3-pointers, often coming up short, before the game-winner. Harrick said the key was Williams had to lean down to grab the ball from Daniels.
As a result, said Harrick, "(Williams) got his legs into it for once tonight.''
Georgia (14-2 overall and 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1994) probably will break into the Top 25 polls for the first time this season. The good news Saturday night was the Bulldogs beat Tennessee (6-8 overall, 1-2 SEC) despite dreadful 31.4 percent shooting from the field and despite being outrebounded 52-42.
"I think we're fortunate,'' Harrick admitted. "(Tennessee) is an awfully good basketball team. Their inside guys are very tough to handle. We didn't shoot the ball well ... 30 percent is almost embarrassing.''
The dramatic win invoked comparisons to Georgia's last-second 26-24 football victory over the Vols in Knoxville last October, when quarterback David Greene completed the game-winning touchdown pass to Verron Haynes with only five seconds left to play.
The Vols' basketball team, coming off an overtime loss to No. 3 Florida, now has lost six games by 15 points this season.
"I told the guys I really had no explanation (for the loss to Georgia),'' said first-year Vols coach Buzz Peterson. "They did everything was asked them to. They fought and scrapped. They fought hard. It's hard for me to explain to them why we lost.''
Ron Slay led the Vols with 21 points. Vincent Yarbrough added 19. Williams' game-winning shot prompted fans from the sellout crowd of 10,523 to converge on press row and surround the junior for a celebration that lasted several minutes.
Georgia will play host to Alabama Wednesday night.
Williams led Georgia with 22 points. Daniels added 19 with a game-high 13 rebounds. Jarvis Hayes added 16 points, including a short jumper for a 70-67 lead with 24 seconds left.
Slay, the target of taunts from Georgia fans all night, answered with a 3-pointer with 15.8 seconds left for the 70-70 tie.
Williams and Jarvis Hayes combined to make only 5 of 22 shots in the half. Georgia, which made 50.4 percent of its shots from the field in its first two SEC games, was fortunate to lead 37-34 at the half while shooting only 31.4 percent.
Williams found his shot midway through the second half, drilling back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by two free throws, for eight straight points for the Bulldogs.
Georgia's outside shooters were needed as foul trouble became a growing concern on the front line. Steve Thomas picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first 2:30 of the second half. Jonas Hayes was called for his fourth foul with about eight minutes left to play, and Jarvis was called for his fourth with 5:20 left.
Providing a lift in only his second game for Georgia was Fred Gibson. Still learning the offense, the freshman best known as a receiver on Georgia's football team played seven straight minutes in the second half, contributing four points, two rebounds and two steals.