Tennessee (11-2) returns four starters off last year's 21-13 team. The
Volunteers will be without starting senior forward Tyler Smith, junior
guard Melvin Goins, sophomore guard Cameron Tatum and junior center
Brian Williams. Smith was dismissed from the team Friday, while Tatum,
Williams and Goins have been suspended indefinitely following their
arrest (along with Smith) on Jan. 1 for gun possession and other counts
after a traffic stop in Knoxville.
The Vols, though, crushed Charlotte, 88-71, on Wednesday without the
four players. They've won three straight and seven of their last eight.
UT's only two losses have come to Purdue (73-72) at the Paradise Jam in
the Virgin Islands on Nov. 23 and at USC (77-55) on Dec. 19.
Some of Tennessee's victories include a 57-53 win over DePaul on Nov.
22 and a 66-59 win at Memphis on Dec. 31.
UT, which is 35-2 in non-conference home games under head coach Bruce
Pearl, averages 81.9 points per game while allowing 63.6. The Vols
shoot 48.3 percent from the field, 33.7 percent from beyond the arc,
and 69.1 percent at the free-throw line. They're holding foes to just
38.7 percent shooting and 28.9 percent from three-point range, while
out-rebounding opponents 37.3 to 33.9 boards per game. A quick,
pressing, team-oriented squad, Tennessee averages 9.6 steals and 17.3
assists per game.
Sophomore guard Scotty Hopson leads UT with 13.5 points a game, while
contributing a team-best 24 treys on 42.9 percent three-point shooting.
Senior forward/center Wayne Chism is the only other player averaging in
double digits with 11.5 points per game, while adding a team-high 5.8
rebounds and 13 blocks. He's followed in scoring by senior guard Bobby Maze (7.9 ppg, No. 3 with 38 assists), senior guard J.P. Prince (6.3
ppg, No. 2 with 41 assists), freshman guard Skylar McBee (4.5 ppg),
sophomore guard/forward Renaldo Woolridge (4.1 ppg) and freshman
forward Kenny Hall (3.8 ppg).
While the All-SEC Smith was a big part of Tennessee's attack (No. 2 on
team with 11.7 ppg, No. 2 in assists with 44, No. 2 with 17 steals and
No. 3 with 4.7 rpg), the Vols are ready to move on.
"Everybody feels disappointed about it, but Tyler's still going to be
family to us and we're still going to have him on our mind," Chism told
utsports.com. "But we've got to move onto the next game and worry about
our season. We've got to keep moving forward."
That includes playing without Tatum, Williams and Goins as well.
"I wouldn't take this at any other time," Chism said. "I'd rather take
this now. Having Kansas coming in now and knowing what we just went
through and seeing how we came together against Charlotte, if we keep
that going, we can be something special. I'd rather have it now than
Pearl hopes his team seizes the moment against No. 1 KU.
"It's a great opportunity for us," Pearl said. "It will take something
very, very special to beat Kansas. But that's what we're setting out to
SELF ON VOLS
KU coach Bill Self knows the Vols will be a tough matchup, even without
Smith and his three suspended teammates.
"Mike Anderson (Missouri head coach) and Bruce probably do the best job
of anyone that I'm aware of, of taking their personnel, fitting it into
what they do and not skipping a beat," Self said. "There are times when
Missouri or Tennessee's leading scorer is out of the game and you don't
even realize he's out because of the way they play with interchangeable
"They obviously will miss their full complement of players, but they
certainly didn't play like it against Charlotte. It will give Scotty
Hopson a chance to take over and do what he's capable of doing. He's
their best prospect and they'll probably go to Wayne Chism more, which
will be hard to guard for us. From a depth standpoint they wont be as
deep, but from a team standpoint I don't see them changing much at all."
READY FOR REMATCH
Tennessee and Kansas have played just once before. That came last
season on Jan. 3 in Allen Fieldhouse, a 92-85 KU victory over the
nationally ranked Vols. Sherron Collins led KU with 26 points and nine
assists, while Cole Aldrich had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Smith paced
UT with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Chism added 17 points, eight
rebounds and a school record-tying six blocked shots.
The victory was KU's first signature win that season.
KU sophomore guard Tyshawn Taylor said that game was a turning point.
"I think it proved to some people that we could beat some of the best
teams," Taylor said. "I think some people underestimated us a little
bit last year, because we were so young and people didn't know what we
GEARING FOR BIG 12 PLAY
Of course, Self dearly wants a win today. But he knows the real season
begins when KU kicks off conference play at Nebraska next Wednesday.
Self calls the Big 12 "the best that's it's been since I've been here."
"No matter what happens Sunday, it's not as important as what happens
Wednesday," Self said. "I've always felt that non-conference games are
not as important as conference games."
12 YEARS AGO TODAY
Exactly 12 years ago on Jan. 10, 1998 in the 100th season of KU
basketball, Roy Williams' Jayhawks beat Texas at Austin, 102-72, behind
Paul Pierce's 31 points and 10 rebounds. The win was Williams' 266th,
setting an NCAA record for most wins in the first 10 seasons of a
Billy Thomas added 27 points for Kansas, while Lester Earl scored 15.
Luke Axtell paced Texas with 18 points. Axtell would later transfer to
Kansas and finished his college career here.
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