Tennessee returned to Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday night with something to prove.
Georgia was merely in the way, though not for long, as it turned out.
"None of us were in a very good mood this week having lost (to Kentucky),'' UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "Our guys wanted to win the game and feel better.''
The No. 3-ranked Vols scored an 85-69 victory over the Bulldogs before a sellout crowd of 21,099.
Chris Lofton led the Vols (17-2, 4-1 SEC) with a season-high 27 points, hitting 9-of-17 shots including 7-of-13 from 3-point range. Lofton, the SEC's all-time leading 3-point shooter, ranks 10th in NCAA history with 374.
It's the first time this season Lofton has scored 20 points or more in back-to-back games. So why the sudden offensive splurge?
"It was that loss,'' said Lofton, who had 22 points in the 72-66 loss at Kentucky on Tuesday. "Nobody likes losing, and after that game we knew we had to turn it around. This was a must-win.
"I just felt like I was ready to do whatever I needed to do to make sure we didn't lose again.''
Tyler Smith, coming off a season-low five points against Kentucky, felt the same way.
Smith narrowly missed a double-double against the Bulldogs (11-6, 2-2), scoring 17 while dishing out nine assists and pulling down seven rebounds.
"Tyler just stuffs the stat sheet,'' Pearl said. "He is just such a terrific playmaker. To have nine assists at the power forward position is just incredible. He's so unselfish.''
Yet another highlight was the return of sophomore Duke Crews, who was greeted by a standing ovation. Crews, who was sidelined more than a month while a potential heart issue was checked out, scored nine points and had eight rebounds in his first action since Dec. 4 at Chattanooga.
The victory runs the Vols' home-court win streak to 27, which ranks as the fourth-longest active streak in the nation. Tennessee has also won seven in a row against Georgia.
The Vols were well in control by halftime, taking a commanding 44-23 lead into intermission behind Lofton's 20 first-half points.
Georgia's Jeremy Price scored the first points of the game on a dunk and the Bulldogs led for the next 58 seconds before JaJuan Smith scored on a layup in transition to make it 2-2 with 17:55 on the clock.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Lofton sparked a 13-2 run and the rout was on.
UT shot 57.1 percent from the floor, out-rebounded Georgia 40-37 and scored 26 points off 21 turnovers.
"That's more like Tennessee basketball,'' Pearl said. "That was an important bounce back tonight.''
UT sophomore point guard Ramar Smith responded to his first start since the third game of the season with seven points, two steals, eight assists and just two turnovers in 22 minutes of play.
The Vols led by as many as 25 points in the second half when Tyler Smith threw down a dunk to cap a 6-0 run that made it 68-43 with 9:16 remaining.
Sundiata Gaines led Georgia with 20 points while Dave Bliss and Billy Humphrey scored 15 apiece.
"I would love to see what kind of game it could have been had we not turned the ball over 16 times in the first half,'' Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton said. "Their defense had something to do with it, without a doubt, but I thought our turnovers had to do with our being soft.''
Tennessee plays next at Alabama on Tuesday (TV: ESPN, 9 p.m.).