Wayne Chism once again had a big night as he led the 20th ranked Tennessee Volunteers (18-6, 6-4 SEC) past the Georgia Bulldogs (11-13, 3-8 SEC) 69-60 on Wednesday night. Chism posted his fifth double-double of the season by putting up 16 points (7-for-14 FG, 1-for-2 FT, 1-for-5 3PT) and 11 rebounds. Not to mention, he was even more of a force on the defensive end of the court as he blocked three shots.
Things didn't go as smoothly as many Volunteer fans and players hoped on Wednesday night, as the Vols got off to another shaky first half performance which found them trailing 29-24. They had shot under 35 percent from the floor and were having a difficult time trying to find the big plays that they needed to get back in the game. They needed an answer.
The second half was a whole different ballgame, as Tennessee came out of the locker room with a whole different mindset as they were playing more aggressive and were starting to find the big plays they needed to pull out a win against the young Georgia team led by Mark Fox.
Wayne Chism got off to a hot start in the second half as he scored six quick points which helped the Volunteers get off to an 8-0 run. They went back and forth with Georgia for the majority of the second half before pulling away late on another big run led by Bobby Maze. Maze finished with 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Other standout performers for the Vols were J.P. Prince, who scored all of his 15 points in the second half, including an alley-oop dunk in which he fell on Chism. It was a scary moment for the Vols, as Chism has battled injuries throughout the season. Meanwhile, Hopson finished in double figures as well (10 points).
The Vols put the game out of reach as Melvin Goins sunk his two free throw attempts with just over 30 seconds left in the game.
One of the biggest reasons why the Vols came out with a W in this game, however, was because they shut down sophomore sensation Travis Leslie. In his first matchup against the Vols this season when they destroyed Tennessee 78-63, Leslie put up 19 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
In this game, though, the Vols found a solution as they held him to a dismal four points on 2-for-6 shooting from the field. He even missed a dunk, which has been his highlight reel showcase for the season. His missed dunk was a great way to explain how Georgia just couldn't get things to go their way in this game.
Even though Trey Thompkins had another carreer night, his 25 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots weren't enough to overcome Chism and the Volunteers.
The Dogs have now lost nine straight in Knoxville against the Vols and are now 0-9 in true road games this year.
This is a big win for the Vols, as they avenged their loss against Georgia and ended their two-game SEC skid.
However, things won't get any easier for Tennessee as they still have some huge games coming up against some of the top SEC teams: South Carolina on Saturday, followed by the Gators, and then the Kentucky Wildcats. These games are also of huge importance for the NCAA tournament seedings as well as determining who will win the SEC East.
Bruce Pearl's team still have some huge obstacles to overcome before they can start thinking about March Madness.