UT-Memphis: 'It's a big-time rivalry'

'Bragging rights' on the line

Game preview: UT vs. Memphis

It's a rivalry with all of the necessary ingredients: prominence, bragging rights, and of course, animosity.

'We just don't like Memphis,'' Tennessee senior point guard Melvin Goins said Tuesday. 'We know we have to be ready to play, because it's going to be a dogfight.

'It's just a big-time rivalry for our team, and I know our fans don't care too much for them.''

Memphis coach Josh Pastner, whose roster is filled with players the Vols fruitlessly recruited, understands.

"I know Tennessee will be fired up, and we'll be fired up,'' Pastner said. "It should be a good one for TV and the fans.''

The Vols (9-4) host the 21st-ranked Tigers (11-2) at 9 p.m. today in Thompson-Boling Arena (TV: ESPN2).

"A lot of guys on their roster could have come to Tennessee but chose Memphis,'' said UT coach Bruce Pearl, who's 3-2 in his meetings against the Tigers. "Our guys know that, and so there are some bragging rights on the line.''

Both teams are long, athletic and like to get up and down the floor, but Pearl believes the game ultimately will be decided by execution in the half court.

"Some of the things they are good at are the things that have been ailing us,'' Pearl said, referring to Memphis' lightning-quick point guard Joe Jackson. "(Jackson) is very fast with the basketball, and it will be a great matchup for Melvin (Goins) and Trae (Golden), our point guards.''

The Tigers are best known for the dribble-drive offense installed by former Memphis coach and current Kentucky coach John Calipari.

Pastner explained Tuesday that's something Memphis has gotten away from.

"After the Kansas game (an 81-68 loss), we kind of scrapped some stuff ... and changed some things offensively,'' Pastner said. "Each game, as we've moved forward, we have gotten better offensively.

"The kind of student athletes we have, the more they have to think, they are going to be slower on their feet. I like to keep things simple and not overcomplicate things."

Pearl said that doesn't make Memphis any less difficult to defend.

Josh Pastner talks about Memphis-UT game

"It's not complicated,'' Pearl said, "but it's very well thought out.''

The Vols' focus has been on their perimeter defense, where UT has proved susceptible to high ball screens.

Pearl has evaluated his personnel to find the best defenders after the Vols' 91-78 loss to Charleston on Friday, and changes in the 10-man rotation are pending.

The Tigers average 80.8 points per game and can score in numerous ways.

"They can shoot the ball from 3, or create off the dribble,'' Pearl said. "Defensively, they'll put a different kind of pressure on us with their long and athletic players - they can really extend.''

Pastner has his concerns about tonight's game, too.

"We're very young; about 60 percent of our minutes right now are played by freshmen,'' said Pastner, whose freshman signing class was ranked No. 1 by various scouting services last spring. "This is our first true road test, and it will be good to see how our young guys react in a hostile road test.''

UT junior Cameron Tatum said the Vols understand the ramifications of the rivalry.

"This is a key-win type of game for us and our fans, like Florida and Kentucky,'' Tatum said. "There's a lot of hatred and competitiveness, but also a kind of respect.

"We know how close the past games have been, and we know it's bragging rights for the state,'' he said. "Since Bruce Pearl has been here, he's owned the state.''

State Champ?: Pearl is 27-6 against in-state opponents and has played every Division I in-state opponent with the exception of Tennessee State, which declined an invitation three years ago.

The Vols' only losses to in-state teams in Pearl's 6 1/2-year tenure in Knoxville are to Memphis and Vanderbilt (UT owns a 6-4 series advantage).

The average scoring margin between the Vols and Tigers in their past three meetings is 4.3 points.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/mgrif32 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/askgriff/

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Comments » 26

MusicCityVol writes:
stevefrommemphis writes:

I served 21 years, 11 months, and 4 days down there in Memphis before I escaped back to East Tennessee. I agree with Melvin Goins. I don't like Memphis either. I don't think Tennessee should play Memphis in any sport, but if UT is going to play Memphis, be sure to beat them.

born2ride writes:

The Vols always beat Memphis in every sport. UT is a superior school.

SunshineVol writes:

Season 2 of 3 starts with a victory over Memphis High.

Vol_n_tear writes:

UT has been the laughing stock of college basketball. I still do not understand how they can beat Pitt and Nova and lose to mediocre teams?

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to Vol_n_tear:

UT has been the laughing stock of college basketball. I still do not understand how they can beat Pitt and Nova and lose to mediocre teams?

Coming from a fan of a school with such sticklers for the rules as Rupp, Hall and Sutton. You are the Alabubba of the college basketball world.
Laughing stock indeed.

Mule_Days_King writes:

in response to Vol_n_tear:

UT has been the laughing stock of college basketball. I still do not understand how they can beat Pitt and Nova and lose to mediocre teams?

Sooo...this is how many screen name changes for you? You had UK in your screen name before. Why change? Aren't you proud of your support of the most-penalized college basketball program in history?

Biggie writes:

WHY is this game not on until 9PM? Us older VOLS need our sleep!

Colliervol writes:

No predictions but the team that decides to play some defense wins this game. Neither one has been good at it lately.

My annual editorial opinion on this game: Cancel this series now. We don't need it.

volguy writes:

"The kind of student athletes we have, the more they have to think, they are going to be slower on their feet. I like to keep things simple and not overcomplicate things."

So basically, Pastner is saying that Tiger High players are dumb thugs who play street ball.

Finally, we can agree.

toddbinkley writes:

Hard to be optimistic on this one Vol fans. I hope we don't get run out of our own gym. Our backs are against the wall already. I will gladly eat this post if something enlightening happened over the past few day to propel this team back into competition.

Tiger4Life writes:

win or lose tonite, I'll take our 32 NCAA wins to your 16 and 3 Final 4's to your 0 all day, every day.

Memphis is just a better program. Have been since the 1970s.

murrayvol writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

win or lose tonite, I'll take our 32 NCAA wins to your 16 and 3 Final 4's to your 0 all day, every day.

Memphis is just a better program. Have been since the 1970s.

And how many of those Final Fours were vacated??

murrayvol writes:

"The kind of student athletes we have, the more they have to think, they're going to be slower on their feet. I like to keep things simple and not overcomplicate things." Coach J. Paster

Even if I believed that I wouldn't say it.

Tiger4Life writes:

in response to murrayvol:

And how many of those Final Fours were vacated??

the NCAA cant vacate a d@mn thing out of my mind. I was there. They happened.

whatever makes ya'll feel better about having none.

Down_The_Field writes:

in response to Tiger4Life:

win or lose tonite, I'll take our 32 NCAA wins to your 16 and 3 Final 4's to your 0 all day, every day.

Memphis is just a better program. Have been since the 1970s.

if memfis is such a superior program to the VOLS then why do your kittens have a losing record against the VOLS. what's the count now? 8-13?

mapdude writes:

in response to volguy:

"The kind of student athletes we have, the more they have to think, they are going to be slower on their feet. I like to keep things simple and not overcomplicate things."

So basically, Pastner is saying that Tiger High players are dumb thugs who play street ball.

Finally, we can agree.

I can't believe a TN fan would play the thug card.
Who was it that was found in a car with a gun that had the serial number filed off of it last year? Can't remember his name or where he played ball. Help me out here...

ChatBleu writes:

in response to bartlett79:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No but I did hear about the UT fan that sold his car for gas money.

slovkcus writes:

The Memphis program is indeed better than that of the vols. Look it up and there really is no comparison. If Memphis plays well and the vols play well tonight, Memphis wins because they do have superior talent. The vols will have to play well and hope for the best tonight. This one is hard to predict.

Tiger4Life writes:

in response to Down_The_Field:

if memfis is such a superior program to the VOLS then why do your kittens have a losing record against the VOLS. what's the count now? 8-13?

I dont care about your 13-8 record. TN ducked us in the 70s and 80s or that would be different. What I do care about is that we have more NCAA tournament wins, appearances, sweet 16s, elite 8s, and final 4s than your little punks in orange will ever see. Those are facts hillbilly.

Raynoch writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Memphis can't play defense either.. or shoot from the perimeter well for that matter.

slovkcus writes:

Memphis wins 67-63

RT07 writes:

in response to volguy:

"The kind of student athletes we have, the more they have to think, they are going to be slower on their feet. I like to keep things simple and not overcomplicate things."

So basically, Pastner is saying that Tiger High players are dumb thugs who play street ball.

Finally, we can agree.

Hahaha!! It's hilarious that a Vol fan would have the nerve to call someone else's players thugs. Maybe you need to look at your past news headlines and refresh yourself on the characters of UT players.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

If both teams play as terrible as in a few of their previous games, it may be a 36 to 34 game. Both teams are capable of shooting 23% FG.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to slovkcus:

The Memphis program is indeed better than that of the vols. Look it up and there really is no comparison. If Memphis plays well and the vols play well tonight, Memphis wins because they do have superior talent. The vols will have to play well and hope for the best tonight. This one is hard to predict.

Well? Which is it? Do you have "superior" talent or is it "hard to predict"?
I predict that if Memphis has "superior talent" then they will win!! If not then UT wins big'cause Pearl has your Number!!!!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to ChatBleu:

No but I did hear about the UT fan that sold his car for gas money.

Yeh. He sold it to the Memphis fan who locked his family in the car...they're still in it right now...The UT fan is using his money to bet on the Vols. tonight! May be a good bet!?

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