Ole Miss rowdy on the boards

UT must prevent offensive snares

Any coach will tell you every game presents a different set of challenges. That's clearly the case tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena as Tennessee and Ole Miss get their SEC men's basketball seasons off to a rip-roaring start.

No. 8 Tennessee (12-1), the preseason pick to win the SEC, and No. 16 Ole Miss (13-0) join unbeaten Vanderbilt as the league's three most productive programs heading into the new year.

But when the Vols and Rebels collide at 8 p.m. (TV: WVLT), it's a whole new ball game. Put another way, a whole new set of problems.

"We played very hard against them but we were absolutely manhandled.''

That's UT coach Bruce Pearl recalling an 83-69 loss at Ole Miss last winter. True, the Vols were without injured Chris Lofton, but he wouldn't have been much help battling the big, bruising Rebels on the boards.

It's a valid issue to revisit tonight.

Tennessee has been outrebounded in eight of its 13 games, including the past five. And now, Ole Miss, possibly the best rebounding team UT has faced.

Led by bookends Dwayne Curtis and Kenny Williams, the Rebels haven't been outrebounded in a game yet and lead the SEC in rebounding margin.

"The league is filled with big guys,'' said UT forward Tyler Smith, anticipating his SEC debut. "You've got guards who are six-seven, six-eight.

"These last few days rebounding is what we've been preaching. (Monday) we got outrebounded by the scout team so he made us run.''

While Pearl worries about the big guys, the Rebels' Andy Kennedy's anxiety comes in a smaller package.

Chris Warren, a 5-foot-11 freshman point guard, has been a sensational addition to the Rebels, averaging 15.2 points 5.69 assists.

"He's as good a freshman point guard as I've seen in college basketball this year,'' said Pearl.

That said, Ole Miss has played only one true road game, before an announced crowd of 5,574 at Central Florida.

"From day one,'' said Kennedy, "we've given him the keys to the car, so to speak.

"He's really unflappable, but I'm anxious to see how he responds to 21,000 yelling at him.''

And with Tennessee pressing him, Kennedy might add. The Vols rank second in the nation in steals at 12.2 per game and harass opponents into 22.3 turnovers per game.

Which, in Pearl's mind, spawns a theory about UT's rebounding deficit.

Producing turnovers leads to more offensive possessions and more shots. UT, in fact, leads the SEC in shots per game.

"Therefore we give the defense more opportunities to rebound the ball,'' Pearl said.

"That's not the problem. I'm worried more about teams getting double-digit offensive rebounds, where we play great defense and then give them a second chance.

"That's one of the things Ole Miss does really well.''

If the Vols need help on the boards tonight it could come from the perimeter. JaJuan Smith notes that his rebounding has slipped from 4.5 a game last year to 2.3 this season.

"I'm trying to be hard on myself,'' Smith said. "I've been telling the bigs I've got to come down there and get involved with you all and that can take some pressure off.''

As for whatever pressure early success brings to the conference season, Pearl and Kennedy are harmonizing:

Thanks, but no thanks.

"We have not talked one time about where we were picked,'' Pearl said. "We're not the defending champion; Florida is.''

The Rebels were picked to finish last in the SEC West. However, the best start in school history recasts them in the unexpected role as favorites.

"I take that just like I did when we were predicted sixth,'' said Kennedy.

"We've got a lot of work to do.''

Notebook: UT ranks No. 1 nationally in assists per game (20.9) and assist/turnover ratio (272/162). ... Pearl attended LSU's national-championship victory over Ohio State on Monday night in New Orleans with Jim Haslam and UT baseball coach Todd Raleigh. ... The team gathered at Pearl's house Tuesday night to watch Florida and Alabama open the SEC season on ESPN. ... J.P. Prince's father, John, was an assistant coach at Ole Miss 1980-82.

Inside Look: Tonight at 10, SportSouth broadcasts "Inside the Orange," a 60-minute Vol Network production offering an inside look at the men's and women's basketball programs. The show will be re-broadcast Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.

© 2008 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 24

RockyTop1 writes:

Let's hang a loss on them as a welcome home to start the New Year - GO VOLS!!

alfrizzle097 writes:

It amazes me how bad the News Sentinel coverage is. They won't shut up about the coaching search even though they have beaten it to death, but when we play a top 20 basketball team, there is only one article. If they can come up with a nentire game day section for every football game (even after having already written about it for a week), they should each be able to write 1 article about the basketball game.

DenverVol writes:

From the few games I've been able to watch this season, boxing out on the defensive boards has been an issue. No better time to change that then tonight. GO VOLS!

JHite7 writes:

Tonight is the night that Chism needs to prove that he can battle inside and put that 6'10" fram up against the big boys. And if he doesn't prove it...then put Brian Williams in there and give him the keys to the Hummer...not the car. Williams has proven that he can battle inside and is not afraid to throw some bodies around. Also, just for emphasis, what would help stop some of the Ole Miss toughness is send Childress in early and let him have the 'bows flared out and ready to go. I'm hoping for a great atmosphere tonight...are the students back on campus? Does anyone know?

CoverOrange writes:

We'll still lose on the boards but win on turnovers.

Chainsaw writes:

Go Vols!

newtonrail writes:

I don't know about Johnson City, but the Cleveland-Chattanooga is facing Tape delay to 10PM. They have done this is the past at Channel 53 and it sucks. I am going to the game, but I called them anyway because there will be LF games away that they delay on Wednesday in the future. Actually we don't have another Wednesday games until Arkansas, Feb.13th on LF.

pkaplan writes:

Here's a link for tonight's broadcast outlets.


twoxvols#231409 writes:

The game is on ESPN360 if you get it.

ssukonic#254241 writes:

Also, ESPN Full Court is having a free preview from Jan. 5 - 12th. Tonight's Tennessee vs. Ole Miss game is on there! Go Vols.......be tough on the boards and everywhere else. Harrass the rookie point guard. Good things will happen.

KnoxVol_in_TX writes:

You can get it on ppv as well on ESPN fullcourt. I got lucky and my ESPN gameplan from football season hasnt been turned off yet, granting me full access to all but one of TN basketball games so far.

Here's to hoping they forget until baseball season.

bUTchVFL writes:

Take care of business boys. Light'em up Chris. Go Vols!

GreerVol22 writes:

BS! Rebounding is about dicipline and aggressiveness. Tennessee has always rolled away from the shot as if its automatic on shots taken from 10ft+

Including Pearl's teams, name me a year when we attacked the boards...I have to go back to the days of Dale Ellis, Yarbrough, or heck even back to BKing!

KnoxVol_in_TX writes:

ssukonic - - free preview you say! Well, guess my luck wasnt luck after all. Suppose they will be dropping my ppv after the 12th.

Oh well, with all the TN games that full court will have this year, I can totally justify the purchase.

bleed_orange writes:

It should be a great game. Ole Miss hasn't played as hard of schedule as we have (S AL,N Mexico, & Clemson being their best opponents and Tx, W VA, Xavier,Gonzaga, & W KY being our best). The sell-out home crowd will probally push us over the top. We are -10 on the board. I think we win by 8 (88-80). I also think we will have a balanced attack with Chris leading the way at about 17 or 18 points. They will probally out rebound us by 5 or 6, but we will turn them over about 5 or 6 more times. FG, FT & 3-pFG percentages are about the same. We average more steals & Assists a game and they average more RB a game. GO VOLS!

budrhon writes:

Chism - no time to be a Gurly Man. Greervol I thought Federmann and Burton rebounded well...lol

weedbreath writes:

REBOUND!!! They are driving me nuts!!!

weedbreath writes:

What has gotten into Chris? Shoot the three!!!

ssukonic#254241 writes:

It's a war on the boards. No place for the feint hearted. They're lettin' em play too.

weedbreath writes:

That game had me on the edge of my seat the entire second half. I guess you could say it was the tale of two Smith's. Coach Pearl has got to stress they need to get back down the court on defense and and also crash the boards. Stop giving up so many offensive rebounds.

natcross24#581803 writes:

great game but seriously, do we not know how to box out and rebound? our defense seems all or nothing and to much gambling. seems to me we could use Tabb's defense and rebounding some where in the rotation

rockyknox writes:

Just in. Tennessee RPI is now #3.

CoverOrange writes:

Did Tabb play? Why did Steven Pearl get in the game? What happened to Chism's "halo" in the second half? Maybe KNS will answer some of these questions tomorrow.

cdldoc#211897 writes:

Smokey needs to sneak down to Oil Miss and steal some of their HGH.

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