UT hosts Oakland at 7

Senior center Brian Williams has seen this script before: Coming off a signature win, Tennessee falls flat and suffers a disappointing loss.

"My freshman year we beat Memphis on Saturday, then came back on Tuesday and lost to Vandy because we didn't pay attention to the scout and wasn't excited about playing," he recalled.

Williams' memory is deadly accurate. The 2007-08 Vols upset a top-ranked Memphis squad 66-62 on Saturday, Feb. 23, supplanted the Tigers as the NCAA's No. 1 team on Monday, Feb. 25, then fell 72-69 at Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

With the 2010-11 Vols coming off last Saturday's 83-76 upset of No. 3 Pittsburgh, Big Orange fans are understandably concerned that history may repeat tonight at 7, when No. 7 Tennessee (7-0) hosts unheralded Oakland (5-5). Williams is confident it won't.

"I think we're very excited about playing this game," he said. "We came out and practiced real hard and real well. I think we're all ready. We've just got to play defense and rebound. That's what's been winning every game this year.

"Oakland is a great team, and we're going to take them the same way we took Pittsburgh."

Tennessee's head coach agrees that he and his players will not allow complacency to set in, causing them to take tonight's foe lightly.

"I've got a chip on my shoulder, and so do they, so I don't see that being a problem," Bruce Pearl said. "I would hope that if Oakland beats us it will be because they outplay us ... not because we're not ready to play."

Junior guard Scotty Hopson, coming off a career-best 27-point outing at Pitt, says the Vols won't let that big win go to their heads.

"The key is just keeping that focus on always handling success," he said. "We've got to understand where we're at as a team and know we've beaten good teams but there's still a long way to go.

"I think this team hasn't reached its boiling point of how good we can be. We still want to play our best basketball in March. Right now we're focusing on getting better; it's a process."

Oakland may not bring a big-time reputation into Thompson-Boling Arena tonight but it will bring some quality athletes. That makes this a potential "trap game" for the Vols.

Keith Benson, a 6-11, 230-pound senior center, averages 18.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game. Reggie Hamilton, a 5-11 junior guard, averages 15.5 points and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 39.1 percent from 3. Will Hudson, a 6-9, 235-pound senior forward, averages 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 66.2 percent from the field. Larry Wright, a 6-2 senior guard, averages 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Pearl described Benson as "a great post player, a first- or second-rounder," adding: "Benson plays big in big games. He's a 6-11 guy that gets it in there and can score over either shoulder."

The Vol coach called Hamilton "an excellent scorer, gets to the rim. He's probably their best 3-point shooter."

Wright, Pearl added, "is a transfer from St. John's. He runs their point. He was 5 for 6 from 3 against Michigan State, so he's a scoring point guard."

Helping Tennessee take Oakland seriously tonight is the fact the Golden Grizzlies gave top 10-ranked Michigan State some anxious moments last Saturday in East Lansing before bowing 77-76. They previously lost competitively to No. 14 Purdue (82-67) and to No. 16 Illinois (73-64).

"Our opponent's record against good teams speaks for itself," Pearl said. "They've played West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State. The last three times they've been right there. They just don't have that marquee win yet."

And the Vol Nation is hoping the Grizzlies won't get it tonight.


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