KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Bruce Pearl asked his Tennessee players at halftime if they were enjoying playing together. He didn't give them a chance to answer.
``I answered the question before they had the chance,' Pearl said, ``and that was, 'Hopefully not, because we did not do anything as a team to enjoy the basketball.''
No. 20 Tennessee bounced back from that lackluster first-half play with the help of 16 points and 11 rebounds from Wayne Chism to beat Georgia 69-60 on Wednesday night.
Georgia led Tennessee 29-24 at halftime, but a 3-point shot by Chism two minutes into the second half seemed to ignite the Vols (19-6, 7-4 Southeastern Conference). J.P. Prince dunked on an alley-oop pass from Bobby Maze to tie the game at 37.
The teams traded baskets as Trey Thompkins tried to single-handedly save the Bulldogs by scoring three straight baskets.
Maze hit a 3 and Prince had a three-point play followed by a dunk to give Tennessee a 57-50 lead with 6:24 left.
The Bulldogs (11-13, 3-8) used a strong inside presence to beat Tennessee 78-63 on Jan. 23, but it was the Vols who took command of the paint this time, scoring 46 inside.
``It was very tough outscoring them in the paint,' Chism said. ``They blocked (seven) shots down there, but we did a great job getting the ball in there and finishing.'
Pearl fiddled with his rotations hoping to spark some offense. For the first time this season, he put Maze and Melvin Goins - both point guards - on the floor at the same time and gave Brian Williams his first significant playing time since returning Feb. 6 from a nine-game suspension.
The changes seemed to help. Prince finished with 15 points, Maze had 13 and Scotty Hopson added 10.
``They did a good job of knocking down shots and executing offense,' Thompkins said. ``We didn't defend at all in the second half.'
Georgia didn't get much help from Travis Leslie, who scored 19 in the first meeting between the teams. Leslie picked up his second foul with 8:23 left in the first half and sat out until halftime. He finished with only four points.
Thompkins led the Bulldogs with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
``We only had one guy score for us,' coach Mark Fox said. ``We couldn't get another guy score for us, and it's hard to win when you've only got one scorer.'
Through the first half, it appeared Tennessee was on its way to only its second three-game losing skid under Pearl. The Vols lost to both Kentucky and Vanderbilt on the road last week.
``There was a lot of pressure on us here tonight, and I think we came out a little tight,' Pearl said. ``We had no cohesion. It was a very gutsy win.'
A dunk by Thompkins launched a 12-2 run that helped Georgia take command of the first half. Thompkins hit a pair of free throws that gave the Bulldogs a 23-15 lead with 6:12 in the first half.
The Bulldogs, the SEC's most accurate team from the line, hit 9 of 11 free throws in the first half but only went to the line twice in the second half.
Georgia also controlled the backboards, grabbing 22 rebounds in the first half compared to Tennessee's 16, and finished with four more boards than the Vols.
Georgia has lost nine straight in Knoxville and is 0-9 in road games this season. The Bulldogs' two other wins against Top 25 teams - victories against Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt - both came in Athens.
``We're still immature on our approach, our consistency,' Fox said. ``We're not a complete enough team to overcome mistakes, a small margin for error. At home, we try to correct some of those.'
The Associated Press News Service
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