Crump's coming on

Tennessee's Brandon Crump was Vanderbilt's Most Valuable Player in the opening minutes of Wednesday night's basketball game at Thompson-Boling Arena. Beset by turnovers, fouls and missed shots, he was doing more to help the Commodores than to help the Vols.

Thanks to the horrid start, Crump finished with a game-high 6 turnovers. He eventually got on track, however, and wound up posting a game-high 20 points -- including 10 of 10 free-throw shooting -- as the Big Orange tripped the No. 23 Commodores 76-66. The 6-foot-10 junior also contributed 7 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and an assist. In addition, he helped limit Vandy's Matt Freije to 8 points on 2 of 12 shooting.

Clearly, the junior forward is emerging as a key figure in UT's basketball future. He has scored 20 or more points in five of his last nine games. He ranks 11th among SEC players in both scoring (16 points per game) and rebounding (7 per game), third in field goal accuracy (63 percent). As the team's captain and oldest player -- he's the only fourth-year squad member -- he will play a big role in determining whether the Vols qualify for postseason action.

''He's stepped up his maturity level,'' Vol head man Buzz Peterson said. ''He's really come a long way. He wants the ball inside and he's hitting his free throws. He's got to be our inside threat.''

Crump was a non-factor in Tennessee's 85-57 loss at Florida last Saturday, and Peterson came back from Gainesville determined to prevent a recurrence of that revolting development.

''What it (Florida loss) made us do was redefine roles,'' the Vol coach said. ''We pretty much told (the guys) that Brandon needs the ball inside to score, and we need to get it to him.''

Crump got the ball a lot versus Vanderbilt but was double- and triple-teamed so much that he took the same number of shots from the free throw stripe (10) as from the field. Bumped and held repeatedly, he managed to keep his cool ... even when the fouls weren't called.

Crump's best games last year coincided with Tennessee's best games. He scored a career-high 19 points in UT's upset of No. 4 Florida, adding 16 points each in UT's upsets of No. 17 Georgia and No. 23 Mississippi State.

That trend seems to be continuing this season. Crump scored a game-high 20 points in UT's defeat of Georgia State, 14 points (on 6 of 7 shooting) in the Vols' defeat of Georgia and 20 points in the upset of Vanderbilt.

Clearly, the big Texan is going to play a big role in any success the Vols enjoy this season.

Brandon Crump Player Profile

Inside Tennessee Top Stories