Could this be where Georgia turns around its 2017-18 season?
The Bulldogs looked dead in the water a week ago. They had just lost three games in a row and positioned well off of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Suddenly, with a strong week over two conference opponents, Georgia could be positioning itself to be in the conversation once again.
Georgia welcomed No. 18 Tennessee to Stegeman Coliseum Saturday evening and held on to a 73-62 victory. The win gave the Bulldogs two Quadrant 1 victories this week, as Georgia defeated Florida on the road Wednesday. The Bulldogs (15-11, 6-8 SEC) also won their first home game in the month of February.
Has the hot seat cooled down?
After losing to Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Auburn, head coach Mark Fox's job security became a hot topic.
Fox's Bulldogs were 13-11 overall and struggling on both ends of the floor. The usually reliable defense was faltering. The offense had yet to develop any kind of consistency. Considering the makeup of the roster, with the most talent from top to bottom in the Fox era, you could sense a lot of angst from the Georgia fan base.
All of a sudden, Georgia has two additional quality wins on its NCAA Tournament résumé. Sure, Florida lost to Vanderbilt Saturday, which makes those two wins not seem as impressive. But since Wednesday's win was on the road, it is still considered a Quadrant 1 victory as long as the Gators are in the RPI top-75.
For all the discussion about Fox's future in Athens, perhaps it was a bit premature after all. Things looked bad, if not terrible, a week ago.
But now, Georgia's path to the NCAA Tournament has opened up, albeit, with work to do over the final two weeks of the regular season.
Ogbeide comes up big
Georgia forward Derek Ogbeide was a starter for most of the season. Only recently has he been asked to come off the bench.
Whatever message, or strategy, Georgia decided in doing this has worked. Ogbeide has been tremendous the past few games and was a huge reason why Georgia was able to pull off the upset Saturday. Ogbeide did a lot of damage around the rim by finishing off missed shots.
Ogbeide finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He has also apparently built a rapport on the pick-and-roll with guard Tyree Crump, who found him again for a strong finish in the second half, just like he did in Wednesday's win over Florida. In addition to his scoring total, Ogbeide secured a double-double with 11 rebounds.
"I thought Derek had a tremendous response to coming off of the bench," Fox said. "Not one second did he feel sorry for himself or act selfish. He just went about trying to improve his play and he's done that."
Georgia forward Yante Maten followed Wednesday's performance against Florida with another strong one, which has mostly been the norm all season long.
Scoring the first eight points for his team, the senior power forward totaled 19 points for his team. Maten provided a strong presence in the post and often got some good looks down low. Eight of his points came from the free-throw line. Maten also hit a 3-pointer in the game and came down with eight rebounds.
Maten also did a good job on defending Tennessee forward Grant Williams, who was held to only five points on 1-of-8 shooting.
"I just tried to crowd him and I think every time he got the ball we tried to equal his physicality," Maten said.
Defense stays strong throughout
Fox lamented Georgia's lack of defense over the past couple of weeks. Against Tennessee (19-7, 9-5), the Bulldogs got back to being a strong group on that side of the floor.
The Volunteers entered the game shooting 44.6 percent from the floor. Against Georgia, they were limited to only 39.4 percent from the field.
Another win over a ranked opponent
Defeating teams ranked in the AP top 25 isn't something the NCAA Tournament selection committee looks at. But it is worth noting that this is the third time the Bulldogs have defeated an AP top-25 team this season.
First, it was Saint Mary's, ranked No. 21 on Nov. 26, 2017. Then it was a win over No. 23 Florida on Jan. 30. For the season, Georgia is 3-3 when facing teams ranked in the AP top-25. This also ties Georgia's season-best in top-25 wins in a year under Fox. The previous best came in Fox's first season in 2009-10, when Georgia went 3-6 against top-25 teams.
-Fox issued a not-so-subtle jab at the media, who he feels does not appreciate his roster. His quote was in response to a question about how Georgia was able to put in consecutive wins after a 16-point loss to Auburn at home last week. "I know some people don't like our players -- I mean, some of you don't like our players. But I love them. This league is a monster. You're going to have ups and downs, and we had a couple of games where we didn't play well. They stuck together and just kept trying to get better and play the game the right way."
-Five Georgia players scored in double figures. Joining Maten and Ogbeide were guard Tyree Crump (11), Juwan Parker (10) and Turtle Jackson (10).
-Georgia was able to get to the free-throw line at a more frequent pace than Tennessee. The Bulldogs made 27 of 38 attempts while the Volunteers were sank 10 of their 15 free-throw attempts.
-Led by Ogbeide's 11 rebounds, Georgia out-rebounded Tennessee 40-33.
-Georgia was feeling it offensively in the second half. After shooting 34.8 percent in the first 20 minutes, the Bulldogs made 12 of 24 shots in the final periof. Georgia finished the game 42.6 percent from the field.