Zeigler, defense lead No. 4 Tennessee over Georgia 70-41
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Zakai Zeigler had 11 points and seven assists and No. 4 Tennessee held its 10th opponent to 50 or fewer points as the Volunteers beat Georgia 70-41 Wednesday night.
Tobe Awaka came off the bench to score 10 points. Santiago Vescovi had six rebounds, four assists and six steals to go with his eight points as Tennessee (17-3, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) got its first win at home since having its 25-game home winning streak stopped by Kentucky more than a week ago.
The Bulldogs (13-7, 3-4), who managed just 29% shooting from the field, were led by Terry Roberts with 11 points.
“We like to pressure the ball,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “The biggest thing we had to do was not foul.”
“(Tennessee’s) backcourt defense is as good as any,” said Georgia coach Mike White. “It all starts with Vescovi and Zeigler. They force you into mistakes.”
“(Vescovi and Zeigler) are fix-it guys,” said Barnes. “When something breaks down, they can fix it.”
The breakdown in the first half was a stretch of almost eight minutes that the Bulldogs went without scoring a basket. That allowed the Vols to get some breathing room.
“When we see teams get down, it gives us confidence,” said Zeigler. “(They get their) head down; get frustrated. They stop being themselves.”
Tennessee’s 22-6 run early in the second half turned an interesting game into a rout.
Georgia’s leading scorer Roberts managed just two points — as the halftime buzzer sounded — as Tennessee led 35-22 at intermission.
“I don’t know if we could have generated enough offense to beat them,” said White. “You can’t win on the road with 20 turnovers.”
This is the 301st week that Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes’ teams have been ranked in the AP Top 25 over his 36-year career, 85 of those have come with the Vols. … Tennessee jumped five places to No. 4 this week.
Georgia: White is able to celebrate in person his little brother Danny’s contract extension as Tennessee athletic director (starting at $2.2 million with a six-year rolling term) which was announced Wednesday. … After winning just one SEC game a year ago, the Bulldogs have won three already. Roberts has shown a spike in production of more than five points a game this season since the SEC campaign began. He’s averaging just shy of 20 points in league play.
Tennessee: The Vols have been tinkering with a new lineup recently. Point guard Ziegler had been coming off the bench, as was Josiah-Jordan James. Tyreke Key and Uros Plavsic have moved to the bench. … Injuries and illness have plagued the Vols. They have had 13 games in which at least one regular rotation player has been unavailable.
Georgia: After their 10-game home winning streak was snapped by Vanderbilt last week, the Bulldogs try to start another win streak against South Carolina on Saturday night.
Tennessee: The Vols will take a break from conference play to host Texas on Saturday night in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
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