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Williams scores 21 of Georgia's first 23 after halftime

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Jarvis Hayes kept Georgia from getting blown out in the first half. Ezra Williams put on an astonishing display of shooting in the second half.

And overtime? It was Hayes' turn.

Williams scored 29 points and Hayes added 23 as Georgia (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) survived another close call with Tennessee, beating the Volunteers 81-76 on Wednesday night.

"It's real good when you've got two guys on the wing you can give the ball to,'' Georgia point guard Rashad Wright said. "They're going to do something with it, especially when they're hot.''

Hayes scored 11 points in the first half, but Georgia trailed 34-27 after shooting 24 percent (8-of-33).

Williams, held to one basket before halftime, scored 21 of Georgia's first 23 points after the break. He made six straight 3-pointers, helping the Bulldogs quickly wipe out a 10-point deficit.

"I have been feeling like that at home,'' Williams said. "It feels like the rim is seven feet tall.''

But it wasn't enough to bury the Volunteers, who overcame a five-point deficit in the final 45 seconds of regulation. Tennessee's Jon Higgins made two straight 3-pointers to send the game to overtime tied at 67.

Williams scored the first basket of the extra period, then Hayes
scored the next 10 points to send Georgia (11-4, 3-1 Southeastern
Conference) to its 10th victory in 11 games and seventh straight at
home.

"I knew in overtime my team would need me,'' Hayes said. "I
just wanted to step up.''

Ron Slay, the SEC's leading scorer, had 29 points for Tennessee
(9-5, 2-3).

"I am so proud of our guys,'' Vols coach Buzz Peterson said.
"They never quit and fought until the end.''

Steve Thomas appeared to seal the victory for Georgia when his
layup made it 65-59 with 45.6 seconds remaining.

But Tennessee rallied, taking advantage when Wright and Damien
Wilkins missed the free throw on consecutive 1-and-1s.

Higgins hit a 3-pointer with 12.5 seconds left to make it 65-64,
and Tennessee got a quick foul on Williams. He made both free
throws, but Higgins raced down court and hit another 3 with two
seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Wright redeemed himself for the missed free throw in regulation. With the shot clock winding down, he hit an off-balance jumper with 9.9 seconds left that sealed the victory -- his only basket of the game.

"You have to give Georgia credit,'' Peterson said. "They hit
big shots when they needed to. Georgia has big wings that cause
some mismatch problems.''

Williams was kicking himself after a poor first half. Unable to
free himself from Higgins' tight defense, he made just 1-of-5 from
the field, including three straight misses outside the arc.

"I felt like I let one person stop me from doing what I'm
supposed to do,'' Williams said. "I committed myself to working
harder at coming off the screens, working harder both offensively
and defensively.''

Williams scored Georgia's first 15 points after halftime, then
broke the streak by assisting on a dunk by Hayes with a perfectly
tossed lob. He put Georgia ahead 50-48 with the last of his 3s,
flapping arms and bumping chests with Wilkins while the sellout
crowd roared.

As is customary with these two teams, the game went right to the
wire -- and beyond.

Last season, Williams hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 73-70 victory in Athens. In the rematch at Knoxville, Tennessee stopped Georgia on the final possession of regulation and dominated the overtime to win 81-73.

Two years ago, Georgia prevailed over the Volunteers 77-75 in
double overtime at Stegeman Coliseum.

"It's never easy,'' Wright said. "You have to come out fighting every game.''

The Bulldogs were fortunate to be trailing by only seven at halftime. They went 10-for-10 from the foul line to keep it close.

"We knew we would get on a run and the shots would start falling,'' Hayes said. "It was just a matter of time.''

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