Sloppy in Athens

Tennessee's basketball team made more turnovers in Game 21 against Georgia (23) than it had in Game 18 against Vanderbilt (8) and Game 19 against Ole Miss (12) combined. In fact, the Vols hadn't been so careless with the ball since a 23-turnover outing in Game 1 against East Tennessee State back on Nov. 18.

Head coach Bruce Pearl is understandably concerned by the sudden rash of turnovers, especially since the Vols had been one of the SEC's best ball-handling teams in their previous 20 games. But he believes the uncharacteristic glut of misplays can be explained and corrected.

"Georgia's physicality, their ball pressure, as well as their trapping defense, forced us to turn the ball over," he said. "Some of them (turnovers) were unforced. We're going to have to get better at that. We'll see that again."

Tennessee will see it again Wednesday night against Auburn, in fact. Like Georgia, the Tigers tend to get physical on the defensive end of the floor. Unlike Georgia, though, Auburn hasn't had six days to prepare for Tennessee.

"Georgia had a whole week to get ready for us," Pearl noted. "They put in new under-basket out-of-bounds plays. They put in a couple of new offensive sets. And our stuff was very well scouted. That made a big difference."

Because Georgia had no mid-week game last week, the Bulldogs were more rested and better prepared for Tennessee than most Vol opponents. That almost proved decisive. The Dawgs pushed the Big Orange to the limit before bowing 83-78. Pearl felt fortunate to slip out of Athens with a victory.

"That was a huge game for us," he said, "because they put a lot into that game."

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