Dawgs survive Vol rally, 56-53

Visit InsideTennessee on a regular basis for the finest coverage available on UT sports. Check out this recap of Saturday's Vol basketball game at Georgia:

Josh Richardson won’t soon forget Saturday’s game at Georgia. God knows he’ll try.

Coming off a career-high 30-point performance Tuesday against Mississippi State, Richardson went 1 of 13 from the field and scored just 2 points in Tennessee’s 56-53 loss at Athens. As fate would have it, the Vols had a shot to tie the score in the final seconds but Richardson’s rushed 3-pointer missed.

Richardson’s previous season low for points (8) and field goals (2) came in a 59-51 win at Missouri on Jan. 18. Armani Moore produced 16 points to lead the Vols, now 13-9 overall, 5-5 in SEC play. Robert Hubbs chipped in 15 points and Kevin Punter added 10.

Richardson, who came into the game averaging a team-best 16.2 points per game, couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle on this night. He contributed in other ways, however.

“We don’t evaluate how guys played on shots made and shots attempted,” Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall said on the post-game show. “He had 30 the other night, but I said he had to do some other things. Tonight he bounces back: He doesn’t score the ball but he has 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals.

“We’re going to ride with Josh. He does some great things but tonight just happened to be one of those nights.”

Nemanja Djurisic, Charles Mann and J.J. Frazier scored 10 points each for Georgia, now 15-7 overall and 6-4 in league play.

With Richardson’s stroke missing in action, Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily. The Vols shot a chilly 35.7 percent (20 of 56) from the field and 27.8 percent (5 of 18) from 3. They drained 80 percent (8 of 10) from the foul line but lost the backboards 31-25 and managed just nine assists, compared to 16 for the Dawgs.

Defensively, Tennessee was a mixed bag. The Vols forced 20 turnovers but allowed the Bulldogs to sink 55.3 percent (21of 38) from the field and 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from behind the arc.

“When you force 20 turnovers and get 14 steals, you feel like you’ve caused some problems for them when you were on defense,” Tyndall said. “Offensively, we just didn’t turn enough of those turnovers into transition opportunities. I thought we had some really good looks. They just didn’t go down.”

Hubbs played one of his best games as a Vol, hitting 6 of 12 field-goal attempts and leading the team with 6 rebounds. Moore hit 6 of 13 shots and battled under the basket. Except for those two, however, Tennessee’s offense was lame. Punter hit just 4 of 11 shots, and the Vols got almost nothing from their post players.

“As the season has worn on more of your warts are exposed,” Tyndall said. “When you don’t have a true low-post player to put some pressure on the defense – whether it’s man or zone – everything you get at the offensive end is manufactured off dribble drives. You have to run set plays to give guys good looks.”

Tennessee came out smoking, scoring the game’s first six points and leading 8-1 three minutes into the action. Georgia made a 10-2 spurt to go up 11-10 and eventually eased ahead by six at 22-16. The Dawgs led 27-22 at the break.

Tennessee opened the second half as it opened the first half – on fire. The Vols scored nine of the first 13 points to pull even at 31-all with 15:55 remaining. Georgia rallied, however, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Frazier gave the Dawgs a 45-36 lead with 9:33 left.

Hubbs scored on a 3 from the key and a tip-in as Tennessee narrowed the gap to 53-50 with 1:48 left but Djurisic broke free for a dunk to give Georgia some breathing room. Richardson hit his only basket of the game with 30.9 seconds left but Frazier answered with a free throw to give Georgia a 56-52 lead with 19.1 seconds left.

Punter made a free throw, trimming the deficit to 56-53 with 7.4 seconds remaining. He missed the second shot but Derek Reese rebounded and fired to Richardson, whose potential game-tying 3-pointer missed.

Tennessee returns to action Wednesday night, facing Vanderbilt at 8 Central (9 Eastern) in Nashville.

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