Photo by University of Georgia Athletics (@UGABasketball)
By Tucker Harlin
KNOXVILLE, Tenn- No. 5 Tennessee (11-4, 1-1) continues SEC play with a trip to Athens to take on Georgia (12-3, 2-0) in Stegeman Coliseum.
The Bulldogs’ two SEC wins were a 75-68 survival at Missouri (8-7, 0-2) and a 76-66 defeat of Arkansas (9-6, 0-2).
Here are observations on the Bulldogs from their two SEC victories.
TCHEWA: THE INTERIOR THREAT
One of the transfers the Bulldogs brought in the offseason was Russel Tchewa from USF.
Tchewa broke out for his first double-double of the season in the win over Missouri, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds. With a wide frame and a knack for offensive rebounds and putbacks, his game mirrors that of Tennessee’s Tobe Awaka, only Tchewa is bigger physically.
The Bulldogs will not rely on Tchewa the way Mississippi State relied on Tolu Smith Wednesday, but he has shown an ability to produce offensively.
The Bulldogs’ steady rotation of guards will be on full display Saturday.
Justin Hill and Jabri Abdur-Rahim are the two veterans the Bulldogs will depend on.
Abdur-Rahim stands at 6-foot-8 and is one of two Bulldogs averaging double figures, showcasing an ability to score inside and out. Hill is the Bulldogs’ most dangerous shooter off the bench, knocking on the door of 20 points per game in conference play.
Noah Thomasson and RJ Melendez are the pickups from the portal.
Thomasson found his way to Athens by way of Houston Christian and Niagara. Thomasson is the best scorer for the Bulldogs, and it showed in a stretch in the first half of the Missouri win.
Melendez comes from Illinois. Like Abdur-Rahim, he is a bigger guard that can threaten a defense by scoring on both levels.
Silas Demary and Blue Cain are the two freshmen featured in the Bulldogs’ rotation.
Demary is a starter and runs the point . A capable scorer, Demary hit a three-pointer with just over a minute remaining to put the game out of reach in the Bulldogs’ win over Arkansas.
High school basketball fans in the Knoxville area are familiar with Cain as he played at Knoxville Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy last season. Cain is an important piece off the bench that is capable of explosive plays, like the dunk he threw down on Arkansas.
The Bulldogs operate at a different pace than what the Vols faced in Starkville Wednesday.
While Chris Jans trots out the burliest big men he can find, Mike White’s team will make an effort to speed up opposing defenses.
The quick pace was what allowed for the Bulldogs to jump out to double-digit leads against both Missouri and Arkansas. The expectation from Rick Barnes and company is for the Bulldogs to shoot the ball well.
Aside from the fact the Bulldogs have not seen a team in the current Top 25, the main sign of weakness was the lackluster end to the first half at Missouri.
The Bulldogs led by 17 with five minutes to go in the half, but they allowed the Tigers to go on a 17-2 run to end the half.
It is a similar weakness to what the Vols seem to deal with at least once a game, but it has only happened once to the Bulldogs in SEC play.