Trey trouble

Fans who show up for tonight's Tennessee-Georgia game hoping to watch one of the NCAA's premier 3-point shooters won't be disappointed. Even if the Vols' Chris Lofton remains sidelined by a bum ankle, the Dawgs' Levi Stukes fills the bill.

Stukes actually has a better 3-point percentage (46.2) than Lofton (46.1). They rank 2-3 among SEC 3-point shooters behind Florida's Lee Humphrey (48.3 percent).

Stukes (48 of 104) doesn't launch nearly as often as Lofton (70 of 152) but the Georgia standout has a lot more help. Four of his Bulldog teammates are hitting at least 40 percent from beyond the arc – Billy Humphrey (41.4), Steve Newman (41.7), Terrance Woodbury (43.2) and Sundiata Gaines (46.3). Gaines would rank ahead of both Stukes and Lofton in 3-point percentage except he isn't averaging the necessary 2.0 treys per game to qualify for the SEC rankings.

Clearly, Georgia's long-range bombers will pose a big challenge for a Tennessee team that ranks 10th among the 12 SEC programs in 3-point field goal defense at 34.5 percent. Making the Bulldogs' perimeter scorers more difficult to defend is the fact they have a potent inside threat in 6-8, 250-pound Takais Brown. A junior college transfer, he's averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game and shooting a team-high 59.1 percent from the floor.

"Georgia possesses the ability to score from a lot of different areas," UT coach Bruce Pearl says. "They've got five guys shooting 40 percent or better from the 3-point line and terrific balance offensively.... The addition of Takais Brown on the inside gives them a real true low-post scoring threat that they didn't have last year."

Timing is everything, and tonight is a bad time for Tennessee to be facing Georgia. The Vols (14-7 overall, 2-4 SEC) have lost five of their last six games, while the Bulldogs (13-6, 5-2) have won five of their last six.

"Georgia right now is playing as well as any team in the conference," Pearl notes. "They beat LSU (57-54) and Kentucky (78-69 in OT) at home. They had Alabama beat at Alabama (losing 78-76) and they beat Arkansas (67-64) at Arkansas on a buzzer-beater.... This is a team playing with a great deal of confidence."

The Bulldogs are a team playing with a great deal of depth, as well. That could prove decisive against a Vol team that relies on just eight players.

"They play with 10 guys," Pearl says. "They have five big guys that they rotate."

Because of its superior depth, Georgia is able to play very aggressively on defense. Fatigue and fouls are non-factors when a team can go 10-deep.

"Defensively, Georgia will put a lot of pressure on the ball," Pearl notes. "They're second (among SEC teams) in steals and second in turnovers forced. They're very, very aggressive defensively. It'll make it difficult for us to run our offense.... It no doubt will be a tough match-up for us."

Barring a miracle, Lofton will not play tonight. That's a serious blow for Tennessee, since he was the winning edge the last time the two teams met, hitting 9 of 12 shots from 3-point range en route to 33 points in an 83-78 triumph at Athens.

Assuming Lofton is sidelined, Tennessee must hope for another big game from JaJuan Smith. Normally a 15-points-per-game scorer, he produced 22 against Ole Miss and 25 against Kentucky in his past two outings.

It's a safe bet Georgia will try to blanket Smith and dare Tennessee to generate points in the paint. Freshman posts Duke Crews (1 of 7 field goals) and Wayne Chism (5 of 13 field goals) have struggled offensively the past two games, and senior power forward Dane Bradshaw has scored just 8 points in his last three games combined.

"We're not all of a sudden going to become a power inside offensive team," Pearl says. "That's just not going to happen."

Tipoff for tonight's game is set for 7:30 with no TV coverage. Tennessee returns to action Saturday, visiting top-ranked Florida.

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