ATHENS — Freshman Anthony Edwards scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half, pushing Georgia to a big lead that carried the Bulldogs to an 80-63 victory over Tennessee on Wednesday night.
After a brutal three-game stretch against ranked teams, Georgia (11-5, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) romped past the Volunteers.
Tennessee (10-6, 2-2) showed a bit of life with a 9-0 run in the opening minutes, but the Bulldogs dominated the rest of the way.
With Edwards hitting from all over the court, Georgia built a 47-28 lead that essentially settled this one by halftime.
Late in the opening period, Edwards drove right down the lane for a two-handed dunk that brought the crowd at Stegeman Coliseum to its feet. He had them yelling even louder when a nifty move at the top of the key freed him up for a 3-pointer that made it 47-25.
Edwards grabbed at the "Georgia" written across the front of his jersey and waved his arms to rev up the student section.
“Our offense made our defense better,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said. “You always want it to be that way, that's always a lot better. The defense was able to sustain things. We challenged shots better, we got our hands up better, our switching was better, and we were able to win the glass.
"We have to play that way. Our team has to learn to understand that even on the road, if we're not making layups, or we're not getting fouled, or not making free throws and jumpers, if we let our defense continue to do the job, we're going to be fine."
Rayshaun Hammonds added 21 points for Georgia, including back-to-back 3s that suddenly pushed the lead into double figures at 32-19.
Jordan Bowden led Tennessee with 12 points and Josiah-Jordan James added 11.
Uros Plavsic played his first game for the Volunteers after being declared eligible by the NCAA.
He wasn’t much of a factor in 17 minutes, scoring five points and grabbing three rebounds.
The 7-foot transfer from Arizona State was initially denied a waiver allowing him to play this season.
After appealing the decision, Tennessee announced Tuesday that an NCAA committee had restored Plavsic’s eligibility, effective immediately.
Tennessee: The Vols’ first six shots were from beyond the arc. They probably should have been working a little closer to the basket, finishing just 6 of 26 from 3-point range. ... Bowden picked up his third foul in the opening minute of the second half but was able to make it the rest of the way.
Georgia: Three freshmen — Edwards, Toumani Camara and Sahvir Wheeler — started for the second game in a row. Camara had eights points, while Wheeler finished with five. ... Edwards made 7 of 8 free throws after going 4 of 11 at the line in last weekend's loss to Auburn. ... The Bulldogs matched their win total from last season. They went 11-21 in coach Tom Crean’s debut year, including a dismal 2-16 mark in SEC play.
Tennessee: Faces state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday.
Georgia: Travels to Mississippi State on Saturday for the first of two straight SEC road games.