KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is at risk of digging itself an early hole as it attempts to defend its Southeastern Conference regular-season title.
Just three days after opening SEC competition with an 80-77 home loss to No. 16 LSU, the fifth-ranked Lady Vols (11-2, 0-1) play Sunday at No. 19 Georgia (12-2, 0-1). Tennessee has lost consecutive SEC regular-season games just three times in school history, most recently in 1996-97.
"It's not how we wanted to start the SEC, but it is what it is," Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale said. "We have to learn from it."
Georgia also finds itself needing to bounce back after falling 66-58 at Vanderbilt in its SEC opener Thursday. A loss could send the Lady Bulldogs out of the Top 25 for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 regular season.
It's unusual for these two storied programs to meet under such circumstances. Since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1976-77, Tennessee and Georgia have spent more weeks in the rankings than any other two programs. In all but three of their 60 all-time matchups, at least one of these teams has been ranked in the top 10.
Now they're trying to avoid starting 0-2 in SEC play. Both teams have lost twice in their last three games.
"I think anytime a team loses, they want to come out immediately and get back in the win column," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "I would suspect both teams are anxious to do that."
Tennessee wants to erase the defensive lapses that caused the Lady Vols to snap a string of 16 straight victories in SEC openers. Tennessee forced seven turnovers in the last 4½ minutes against LSU while cutting a 16-point deficit to one, but the Lady Tigers had little trouble running their offense before that comeback.