With Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring 25 points on Saturday afternoon, Georgia beat Tennessee 78-68 to end the Vols’ six-game winning streak and complete a season sweep of their SEC rivals.
Georgia entered the day having lost four of its last five games, including suffering a one-point defeat at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night after leading by 17 points in the first half.
Also included in Georgia’s recent tough stretch was an overtime loss at Mississippi and a two-point defeat at Arkansas.
The Bulldogs took no satisfaction from consistently having chances to win. They wanted to finish what they started — and on Saturday, they did.
“It was important for us to get back off the mat,” Fox said. “You have to get rewarded for doing it right. You have to have successes along the way.”
Georgia led by 12 with about three minutes remaining and kept the lead in double figures for the final minute.
“The last couple of games we’ve left the ball in the opponents’ hands in the last couple of seconds,” said freshman Charles Mann, who had 18 points. “It felt good to have the big margin at the end.”
Mann called the win “a confidence-booster.”
“Tennessee is a heck of a team,” Mann said. “To get the win puts us back on track.”
Tennessee (17-11, 9-7 SEC) suffered its first defeat since losing to the Bulldogs 68-62 in Knoxville on Feb. 6.
Jordan McRae set career highs with eight 3-pointers and 35 points to lead the Vols before fouling out with about one minute remaining.
Georgia (14-15, 8-8) took its first regular-season sweep of the Vols since 2001. Mann made 12 of 14 free throws. Georgia made 22 of 26 attempts overall.
The Vols, who moved into NCAA tournament consideration with their longest winning streak of the season, were denied their first streak of seven straight SEC wins since 2008.
Kenny Hall had 10 points but no other Tennessee player scored in double figures.
Trae Golden, last week’s SEC player of the week, made only 1 of 10 shots from the field for four points, eight below his average.
Skylar McBee missed his first seven shots before finally sinking a 3-pointer for his only points. Jarnell Stokes had eight points and 10 rebounds.
“I felt like we didn’t get the shots we were looking for,” said Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin. “Give Georgia credit defensively, but when we don’t get production from Trae and Jarnell, it’s going to be a long night.”
McRae, who averaged 28 points in his last three games, continued his hot streak.
He had 27 points in the Vols’ 64-58 win over No. 8 Florida on Tuesday night. His previous highs of six 3-pointers and 34 points came in an 82-72 win over LSU on Feb. 19.
McRae made eight of 11 3-pointers but said he couldn’t enjoy another career high.
“We lost, that’s all that matters,” McRae said. “The personal stuff doesn’t mean much. It goes right out the window.”
McRae said the Vols had to shoot 3-pointers because Georgia sealed off the lanes to the basket: “Every time we tried to drive, it was like driving into a wall,” Mc-Rae said. “There was nowhere to go. It was tough.”
Georgia had success from the 3-point line in each win over the Vols. After making 11 of 20 from behind the arc at Tennessee last month, the Bulldogs made 8 of 16 3s on Saturday.
The Bulldogs led by 11 at 25-14 late in the first half. The Vols rallied to lead 41-40 on McRae’s 3-pointer about eight minutes into the second half.
Georgia had a quick answer. A jam by Tim Dixon gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Freshman Kenny Gaines, who returned after missing one game with a heel injury, hit a 3-pointer with 5:20 remaining to give Georgia a 53-45 advantage. Gaines’ added another 3 with 2:56 remaining to push the lead to 12 points.
“Coach said to keep fighting and stay with the process,” Gaines said.
Georgia had five turnovers before it scored its first points but finished with only nine turnovers for the game, including only two in the second half.
Georgia will host Kentucky on Thursday night.