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Bulldogs fall to Volunteers in regular season finale, 66-61

UGA Basketball: Tennessee
Photo: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Closing out the regular season slate, the Georgia men’s basketball team were clipped by No. 16 Tennessee, 66-61, Saturday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Bulldogs (16-14, 7-11) tied the game at 57-all just under the five minute mark in the second half and took a four-point lead off a Yante Maten 3-pointer, but it deemed not enough down the stretch. Nine unanswered points secured the way for the Volunteers (23-7, 13-5) to seal the win and their share of the SEC regular season title with Auburn.

“Our players and our team certainly competed really hard,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “It was an extremely hard-fought and physical road game. We got off to a really good start offensively, but we weren’t quite as good in the second half, because of Tennessee’s defense tightening it up. Our players gave great effort.”

Maten tallied 18 points and 9 rebounds, both team-highs, while Rayshaun Hammonds and William Jackson II chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively.

At the half, Georgia led Tennessee 42-34 after shooting 53.6 percent from the field including seven 3-pointers, and holding the Volunteers to just 34.5 percent shooting.

The Vols jumped out to an early 5-0 run, before Georgia responded with nine unanswered points featuring 3-pointers from Hammonds and Jackson. After Tennessee knotted it at 13-all, the Bulldogs rallied off eight straight points from threes by Parker and Hammonds and a Parker fade away jumper in the paint. Georgia controlled the lead the rest of the half and held an 11-point advantage in the final minute until a Tennessee three brought the margin back to single-digits.

The first significant run of the second half came from Tennessee who scored eight unanswered to pull within one point, 45-44, at the 13:44 mark. Freshman forward Nicolas Claxton stopped the offensive drought with a put back, and blocked a shot on the other end. Tennessee tied it at 49-all with a three, but again Claxton answered back – this time on a two-handed dunk off a Jackson assist.

Again the Volunteers tied the game, but Georgia on the following possession grabbed two offensive rebounds with the second setting up a Maten-to-Hammonds finish at the 8:41 mark. Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner sunk a three at the 6:23 mark to put UT ahead 55-53, its first lead since 2-0. Maten’s two free throws shortly after tied the game for the fifth time with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

The momentum swayed Georgia’s way briefly late after Tennessee’s highest-scorer, Grant Williams, fouled out and Maten’s three put the Bulldogs up by four. The Volunteers combated that sequence and outlasted Georgia in the final minutes.

Georgia grabs the No. 12-seed for the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, starting Wednesday, March 7 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bulldogs will face the winner of tonight’s matchup between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.

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