Dominating the Dawgs

In their first 3½ seasons with Tennessee's basketball program seniors Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Jordan Howell have played for teams that were ranked and teams that were just rank.

They've experienced breath-taking highs and gut-wrenching lows. They've experienced good seasons and bad seasons. They've experienced exhilarating wins and humiliating setbacks.

One thing they haven't experienced ... a loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. They are 7-0 against the Dawgs heading into Saturday's 3 p.m. tipoff at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. By comparison, the Vols stand 16-14 against the rest of the SEC East during the same span.

Howell actually signed with Georgia out of high school but was released from his scholarship when the Dawgs fired head coach Jim Harrick. Howell subsequently signed with UT.

Lofton, Smith and Howell were freshmen on the utterly inept 2004-05 UT squad that went 14-17 in Buzz Peterson's swan song. Even so, the Vols managed to sweep the Dawgs that year – winning 72-65 in Athens and 78-68 in Knoxville.

Bruce Pearl assumed command in 2005-06 and beat Georgia two more times – 89-76 in Knoxville and 83-78 in Athens.

From Jan. 24 through Feb. 3, 2007 the Vols lost three of four games while Lofton was sidelined by a severely sprained ankle. The one team they beat ... Georgia, 82-71 in Knoxville. Tennessee completed the season sweep five weeks later by prevailing 71-65 in Athens.

The Vols' 85-69 win earlier this year at Thompson-Boling Arena improved the record of Tennessee's seniors vs. Georgia to 7-0. By comparison, they are 2-6 against Kentucky, 4-3 against Vanderbilt, 5-3 against South Carolina and 5-2 against Florida.

Does Tennessee "own" Georgia? Perhaps. The Vols are way too diplomatic to suggest as much, of course. When asked this week about their recent domination of the Dawgs, they deftly ducked the question.

JaJuan Smith conceded that the Vols "match up real good with Georgia," but hastened to add that that Dawgs are "a tough team. We know going down there Saturday is not an easy place to go. A lot of teams are not going to come out of there with a win, so we know we've got a tough one ahead of us."

Historically, the Dawgs are pretty good at Stegeman Coliseum. Their four most recent losses in Knoxville were by an average margin of 12.5 points per game. Their three setbacks in Athens during the seven-game losing streak were by an average margin of just 6.0 points.

"It's going to be a big game because they're at home," Vol sophomore Wayne Chism said. "Everybody's going to try to play good at home when Tennessee's coming to their gym. (Sundiata) Gaines, the point guard, is pretty good. And they're got three 6-10s, so we've just got to man up.

"It's going to be a tough game on the road for us but we've got to go down there and play. We're just going to keep our confidence high and keep going."

Pearl also tends to focus on Georgia's home-floor advantage when discussing Saturday's game.

"Georgia is very good at home. They're 11-2 at home," he said. "They won big (82-64 Wednesday night) against South Carolina.

"We have managed to go down there and compete."

That's one way to put it.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories