KNOXVILLE, Tenn -- Georgia didn't panic as it watched another big lead get wiped off the scoreboard. The Bulldogs had been in that position enough lately to know exactly what to do.
"Once we lost the lead we felt that we had to play a lot harder," Georgia forward Jeremy Price said. "It's a competition. We had to make tough plays and it amounted to a victory."
Georgia led Tennessee by as many as 15 points in the first half but survived a second-half surge by the Volunteers to beat them 69-63 on Saturday. It was the Bulldogs' first win in Knoxville since an 88-76 victory on Feb. 21, 2001.
The Bulldogs (18-8, 7-5 Southeastern Conference) had blown double-digit leads in their last two games, beating South Carolina after nearly squandering all of a 23-point second-half lead but losing to Vanderbilt after the Commodores erased their 14-point second-half lead.
The Vols (16-11, 6-6) had eliminated all of Georgia's lead with 12:08 to go, and the teams stayed close for 4 1/2 minutes. The Bulldogs stayed tough in the paint, thanks largely to Price's team-leading 20 points, and led 63-57 with a minute to go.
Tennessee's Scotty Hopson drove to the basket for a layup. After Dustin Ware missed a pair of free throws for Georgia, Hopson pulled in the rebound, drove to the 3-point line before hesitating, and went all the way to the basket for an uncontested dunk that cut the margin to 63-61 with 42 seconds left.
The Vols tried fouling Ware twice more, in hopes he would continue missing free throws, but Ware sank four in the final 39 seconds to seal the win. Price, who had no points and four fouls in nine minutes in Georgia's 59-57 loss to Tennessee on Jan. 18, finished off the game with an icing dunk with 14 seconds left.
Tobias Harris banked in one more layup for the Vols in between Ware's trips to the line, but it was their last basket as Hopson, who led the team with a career-high 32 points, later missed a 3.
Travis Leslie scored 15 points for Georgia, Ware finished with 12 and Trey Thompkins added 11.
The Bulldogs were also looking to avenge the earlier loss to the Vols, when Brian Williams put back a missed buzzer-beating shot as he was falling down to give Tennessee the two-point victory. Tennessee had swept the series with Georgia in four of the previous five seasons.
"We have made progress as a program, and these young guys have matured," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "In order to have success on the road it is truly because you have good players -- guys who have bought in."
The teams entered the game in a three-way tie with Kentucky in a heated SEC East Division race, and both were looking for quality wins to impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Tennessee and Georgia traded the lead three times early in the game before the Bulldogs went on a 17-0 run to take control. A 3-pointer by Sherrard Brantley gave the Bulldogs a 22-7 lead with 10:20 left in the first half.
"Georgia started the game like they were playing for their NCAA tournament lives," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "We played like we were already in. You can't spot a good team that kind of lead in a game of that magnitude. The players understood what was at stake. The coaches understood what was at stake. It didn't show up until 10 minutes into the game."
The Volunteers struggled against Georgia's defense around the basket but also took bad shots and missed two would-be alley-oop baskets. Gerald Robinson fouled Hopson as he drove to the basket and hit a layup, and Hopson hit the free throw to end Georgia's run and provide some life for Tennessee.
The Bulldogs hit 51.9 percent (14 of 27) of their first-half shots while the Vols could only manage 28.1 percent shooting (9 of 32). Georgia was plagued, though, by eight turnovers, six of them unforced, and Tennessee trimmed its lead to 33-25 by halftime.
The Vols answered in the second half by hitting 57.1 percent (16 of 28) while the Bulldogs maintained their pace with 50 percent shooting (10 of 20). Harris added 18 points for Tennessee.
"I partially think (the start) was my fault," Hopson said. "I need to lead this basketball team. I started the game off very nonchalant. That's part of my game I've got to get rid of. I told the guys my body language was bad. We started off flat, and obviously we can't have that."