Vols Eyeing Strong Finish

Tennessee went into Athens Georgia with a 15-2 record and a lot of fan fare only to falter to the Dawgs on the road. The Volunteers got the chance Wednesday night to return the favor and picked up its 19 win of the season. Go "Inside" to get our thoughts of last nights game.

Georgia forward Trey Thompkins dominated the Vols in Athens, Ga. on January 23rd, leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 21 points while picking up eight rebounds and three steals.

Thompkins' visit to Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday evening obviously attracted major defensive attention from the Big Orange, albeit to the same results.

The 6-foot-9 native of Lithonia, Ga. muscled through the Vols for 21 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

In the paint, the Bulldogs once again had the upper hand, outrebounding the Vols 34-31, including seven blocks.

Georgia was significantly taller than the Vols this season, with 6-foot-8 forward Jeremy Price accompanying Thompkins, as well as a consistent 6-foot-4 shooting guard in Travis Leslie.

This time around however, No. 20 Tennessee (19-6, 7-4) was able to match Georgia's scoring, holding on to win 69-60, avoiding the program's first three-game losing skid in three years.

Senior Wayne Chism once again displayed the willpower central to many gutsy Volunteer wins this season, grabbing his 16th career double-double, scoring 16 points, with 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.

Head Coach Bruce Pearl unleashed his seventh starting lineup of the year on the Bulldogs, headlined by the leadership of guards Bobby Maze and Melvin Goins, who played 30 and 19 minutes respectively.

The rotation change cut down significantly on walk-on guard Skylar McBee's minutes (12).

It was a win the Volunteers would have happily paid for, with back-to-back road tests coming up in Columbia and Gainesville, followed by a home rematch with the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats.

South Carolina, a team the Vols easily handled less than two weeks ago in a 79-53 home win, is also plagued with inconsistent paint play and therefore an advantageous match up for the men in orange.

The Vols dominated the Gamecocks on the boards 43-35, as Chism had a career night, scoring 30 points to go along with four rebounds and three blocks.

If Tennessee shows up in the paint like it did at home against South Carolina, pencil in another W for a NCAA tourney-bound team.

The Vols also held a plus six rebound margin over the Gators in a previous home meeting.

This Tennessee team has proven time and again that it leans much more to the defensive side of the ball, which typically means the battle on the glass could decide the outcome, with the exception of grinding games such as Wednesday's contest.

The Wildcats barely topped the Vols for rebounds in Lexington 33-31.

Tennessee's final two opponents, Arkansas and Mississippi State of the SEC western division, have yet to face the Vols this season.

Whether it's another lineup change or defensive game plan, Wednesday night's win over Georgia will be characteristic of the grinding, scrappy wins the Vols will have to orchestrate with an injury plagued bench (Chism & Tatum) against an uphill remaining schedule.

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