The Tennessee Volunteers (14-5, 2-2) are on the road again tonight as they travel to meet the Ole Miss Rebels(12-7, 1-4). Tennessee is coming off a close but much-needed victory against the South Carolina Gamecocks, while the Rebels will be playing at home for the first time in four games.
Coach Bruce Pearl said the Vols must keep in mind that every game is a test, especially in a conference such as the SEC. He said that the Rebels will be a challenge down low for his team.
“They (Ole Miss) are a very big, strong and physical team,” Pearl said.
The Rebels are coming off two consecutive losses - one to the LSU Tigers and the other to the Florida Gators. In both games, Dwayne Curtis, a 6-8, 290-pound center, scored in double figures, and that was against Joakim Noah and Glen “Big Baby” Davis, two of the SEC’s premier big men.
The Rebels also have stellar guard play in senior Clarence Saunders. In 19 games, Saunders has scored in double figures in all but two of those games. He is a guard that likes to drive and assert himself physically in the lane. If that option is not available, he can pull up for a lethal short jump shot, which has helped him average 15 points a game this season.
As for UT’s guard play, the Vols will be scrambling to find a replacement for junior Chris Lofton, who went down Saturday against South Carolina with an ankle sprain.
“When you lose any player, the others have to step up a little,” Pearl said. “When it’s your best player, they have to step up a lot. We’ll have guys move around and play different positions. There will be increased minutes for some.”
JaJuan Smith had been struggling to find his shot of late, but had a fairly nice outing against South Carolina when he was able to tally 21 points. Pearl said consistency from Smith will be vital to the success of the Vols.
“It’s important to have JaJuan playing well,” Pearl said. “He cares, and he’s always been a good defensive player. We want him to be a more consistent offensive player.”
If the South Carolina game was any indication, Josh Tabb’s minutes may take a bit of a jump now that Lofton is out. The guard played 28 minutes against the Gamecocks – a jump from his season average of 17 minutes a game.
Chism and Crews are showing everyone why the Vols’ future is a bright one. Both men are averaging about 10 points and six rebounds a game. Chism has made a reputation for himself with his quick feet and outside range. Crews has backed up his teammate with furious post play.
With Chris Lofton out of commission for at least Wednesday’s match-up, Dane Bradshaw will be expected to set up his teammates even more. In the South Carolina game, Bradshaw had seven of the teams 12 assists, many leading to easy layups.
The Vols tip off against Ole Miss tonight at 8.
Pearl looks to end road struggles
Published: Wed Jan 24, 2007 | Modified: Thu Jan 25, 2007 02:01 p.m.