Vols host UT Martin tonight

The Tennessee Vols have played three consecutive one-point games. If they play another tonight, their season officially is going downhill fast.

The Big Orange, 8-3 and unranked for the first time all season, has a 7 p.m. tipoff against a UT Martin team that stands 4-9 after being dismembered 100-40 Monday night at second-ranked Ohio State. The Skyhawks' previous losses included a 79-56 setback at LSU on Nov. 18 and a 102-80 defeat at Memphis on Nov. 23.

Still, to suggest tonight will be easy for Tennessee might be a tad presumptuous. Lately, nothing has been easy for the Vols, who are 1-3 in the past four games after a 7-0 start. They have shot less than 40 percent from the field in each of the past three games, averaging a mere 59.3 points per game during that stretch.

Despite the Skyhawks' poor record, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl says the visitors are not to be taken lightly.

"Martin is averaging over 70 points a game," he said. "They're young, they're quick, they're athletic. They spread it, they drive it. They could 'Indianapolis' us in the sense that if they catch a lead they're really quick and we won't be able to catch 'em."

The coach's use of "Indianapolis" as a verb is a reference to the way the visiting Greyhounds used superior quickness to out-hustle Tennessee en route to a stunning 79-64 exhibition defeat of the Vols back on Nov. 8.

"They're very good off the bounce," Pearl said of the Skyhawks. "They'll spread us and drive us. We're going to have to really move our feet well and guard them.

"We'll have an advantage with our size, which can work in our favor offensively. Defensively, we'll be challenged defending our lane ... because they'll challenge us greatly one on one."

Like Indianapolis, Martin utilizes a three-guard lineup. The backcourt starters are 6-3 freshman Terence Smith, 6-0 freshman Omari Minor and 6-3 junior Dane Smith.

Terence Smith leads Skyhawk starters in points (10.5 per game), rebounds (4.2 per game) and assists (2.4 per game). Dane Smith averages 4.0 points and Minor 1.6.

Martin's other projected starters are 6-7, 235-pound senior Andres Irarrazabal (4.5 points per game) and 6-6, 215-pound freshman Troy King (8.4 points per game).

The Skyhawks lead the Ohio Valley Conference in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 31.9 percent from behind the arc. They could improve that figure tonight, since the Vols shoot a frigid 30.5 percent from 3.

No Vol is more excited to see Martin come to town than 6-foot-10 senior post Brian Williams. He had a career game against the Skyhawks on their previous visit to Thompson-Boling Arena, hitting 8 of 10 shots (including a 3-pointer) en route to a 21-point, 12-rebound effort as the Vols rolled 91-64 in 2008.

Tonight's game will be regionally televised by CSS.


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