This Saturday, Georgia will be playing host to Bruce Pearl’s #8 Tennessee Volunteers in Athens at 5:00PM EST.
This will mark the Dawgs fourth-ranked opponent in their last five games.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two months, you are probably well aware of the drug/gun scandal that several Volunteer players were involved in.
The result of that incident: senior G/F Tyler Smith was kicked off the team and reserves C Brian Williams, G Melvin Goins and Lithonia, GA native G Cameron Tatum were suspended indefinitely (Goins and Tatum were actually re-instated onto the team earlier this week). These four players represented 40% of this team’s offensive production through the first 12 games of the season (Smith was the team’s leading scorer last year and was averaging in double-figures again this year).
Amazingly, this Tennessee team has won five games in a row with the help of only 6 scholarship players and a mix of walk-ons. Two of those wins were against #3 Kansas and #22 Ole Miss…go figure?
This Vols squad is led in the backcourt by Scotty Hopson, Bobby Maze and J.P. Prince (6’7″ brother of NBA player Tayshaun Prince). In his sophomore season, Hopson is leading Tennessee in scoring (13.5) and 3-point shooting (40.6%). His wiry 6’7″ frame allows him to shoot over defenders from the outside, but Hopson is not afraid to take the ball to the rim as well (he had a couple of very impressive dunks against Alabama).
Maze and Prince are chipping in 8.8 and 7.0 points/game, respectively, though neither of them is much of a shooting threat. Both of these guys play great defense, and rarely turn the ball over.
In the frontcourt, the headline name for UT is senior C Wayne Chism. If you have never seen Mr. Chism play, he’s easy to spot with his white headband that he sports about 3″ too high on his forehead.
Chism is the Vols leading rebounder at 6.5 per game to go along with 12.1 points. He is also actually a pretty good outside shooter, knocking down 39% of this 3-point attempts.
In the last five games, these four leaders have stepped up their efforts to compensate for the loss of their four suspended teammates. All of them are averaging more points per game than their season averages – Chism 15, Hopson 14, Maze 12, Prince 9.4.
Off the bench, Tennessee has gotten great play from sophomore F Renaldo Woolridge (6’8″, 208lbs) and freshman F Kenny Hall (6’8″, 220lbs). Over the past five games, Woolridge is averaging 7.4 points/5.4 rebounds and Hall is giving the Vols 8.4 points/6.0 rebounds (both guys only average 4.8 points/game on the season). Kenny Hall (from Stone Mountain, GA) is very active on the offensive glass, so the Dawgs better be aware of where he is on the court when shots go up and get a body on him.
I watched this team win at Alabama on Tuesday night, and it was interesting to see how their style of play has been affected by the loss of the suspended players. Bruce Pearl’s past teams at Tennessee have thrived off running a full-court press for a majority of the game, dictating a fast tempo and forcing opponents into turnovers. However, with less personnel at his disposal, Pearl’s team has been forced into playing a half-court game.
Bruce Pearl has never lost to the Dawgs since his arrival at Tennessee in 2005. His Vols have won 10-straight against Georgia, and will be looking to make it 11 on Saturday.
Men vs Boys – Wayne Chism is the only UT player that weighs 240lbs or more (he’s listed at 246). The Dawgs have 4 guys that tip the scales over that 240lb plateau – Chris Barnes – 240, Trey Thompkins – 247, Jeremy Price – 264 and Albert Jackson – 265. Georgia needs to make the most of this size advantage and bang down low on the thinner Vols. Dustin Ware and Ricky McPhee should be looking to dump the ball down to the Georgia bigs early and often. The Dawgs are third in the SEC in rebounding margin (+4.1), and in Saturday’s game UGA needs to continue its domination on the glass.
Kiddy Pool Depth – This “key” is somewhat tied into the first one in that it is focused on Georgia getting the ball inside early. Tennessee’s depth chart got axed by 33% after the scandal, which means that when a starter goes off a walk-on player enters. The Dawgs need to look to draw fouls on offense so that they can get into the Vols’ bench. This would give Georgia a rare talent-advantage over an opponent (usually its the Dawgs that are doing more with less).
From Downtown!!! – Guess where Georgia ranks in the SEC at 3-point field goals made per game? If you guessed last, then “Yes! You are correct, Sir!”. The Dawgs are shooting only 33.2% from behind the arc, and making merely four 3’s a game (and McPhee is making 2 of them per contest). I’m not saying that I think that UGA should start chunking up 24 3-pointers a game like Mississippi State (Dawgs shoot 12/game), but it would be nice if they could take & make just a couple more. Thompkins is second on the team in 3pt% at a solid 39.1%, yet he has only taken 23 shots from there on the year. I wouldn’t mind if Trey started looking for a few more (like one or two) three-point shots a game…a couple more 3’s would remove some pressure on offense, and help open things up more in the paint.
Saturday’s game will give fans a rare chance to see a match-up between two walk-ons, both presumably of Scottish decent. If you haven’t guessed, I am referring to the Dawgs senior guard Ricky McPhee and Tennessee’s freshman guard Skylar McBee.
McBee made headlines when he hit a 3-point field goal with time winding down on the shot clock to all but seal the Vols upset victory over the then #1 Kansas Jayhawks. He received offers to play at East Carolina, Marshall, Santa Clara and Winthrop, but elected to stay close to home and walk-on at UT. This was probably a wise decision since he has been playing 15.5 minutes per game, contributing 4.8 points.
The elder McPhee (also known as the Pride of Lawrenceville) transferred to Georgia after two seasons at Gardner Webb University. This season, McPhee has started every game for the Dawgs and is averaging 9.8 points in 30.4 minutes. He has also established himself as Coach Fox’s best perimeter defender (and is certainly a crowd/blog favorite).
It will be interesting to see if these two players defend each other at all on Saturday. Both of them continue to serve as inspirations to future walk-ons and Scotts everywhere.
– I will be heading up to Athens with a few buddies for this one… If you can’t make the trip, the game will be televised on the Fox Sports Network and 750AM radio.
Any other thoughts on what Dawgs need to do to win this one?