Buzz can laugh ... now

Tennessee's basketball team traveled to Florida on the eve of the game and lost by 38 points. The Vols traveled to South Carolina on the eve of the game and lost by 21. Hoping to change their luck, they traveled to Mississippi State on game day and lost by 22. So, what can head man Buzz Peterson do for Wednesday night's game at LSU that he hasn't already tried?

''We're going to leave today,'' he said during his Monday media luncheon.

After a brief pause, Peterson laughed heartily and added, ''No, that's something like (Memphis coach John) Calipari would do.''

Peterson's sense of humor has returned in the wake of Saturday's 65-63 upset of Florida. Prior to that, the Vols had lost four games in a row and five of six. The head man wasn't cracking many jokes during those dark days but beating Florida improved Tennessee's record to 11-6 overall (3-4 in SEC play) and improved the team's mood considerably.

''It's amazing what a win does, as far as the morale of the team,'' Peterson said. ''I was getting to be like a broken record ... 'Stay positive' ... and they were looking at me like, 'Is he crazy?' ''

Now that the Vols have won a game, Peterson is even mentioning post-season aspirations.

''It's a very fine line ... whether you can be in postseason or not,'' he said.

To illustrate this point, he noted that a blown call by an official cost the Vols a potential game-tying possession in the final seconds of their loss to Louisville. He also noted that a late defensive lapse against Kentucky allowed the Cats to hit a game-tying 3-pointer, then win in overtime.

With a break or two in those games, Peterson said, ''You may be looking at 13-4 (as an overall record) and maybe ranked in the top 25.''

Conversely, if Florida's Lee Humphrey had hit the last-second 3-pointer he missed on Saturday, Tennessee could have one more loss.

''At the other end, we could be 10-7,'' Peterson conceded. ''It's a very, very fine line (between winning and losing). That's why guard play and execution are so important down the stretch.''

Tennessee is 3-1 in SEC home games but 0-3 in SEC road games. Thus, a win at LSU would be a big boost to UT's post-season hopes.

''If we could go on the road and steal one,'' Peterson said, ''that would really put us in the hunt.''

The Vol coach said his team will fly into Baton Rouge Wednesday morning, hold a shoot-around at LSU's gym, then check into the team hotel to await the 8 p.m. (EST) tipoff.

Winning on the road is tough in the SEC, however, with last Saturday providing a perfect illustration. No. 22 Florida, which won by 38 when it played Tennessee in Gainesville, lost in the rematch at Knoxville. In addition, No. 5 Kentucky lost at unranked Vanderbilt and No. 24 South Carolina lost at unranked Ole Miss.

Although Tennessee lost its first three SEC road losses were by an average margin of 27 points, Peterson says, ''We've got to go in there and give it our best shot.''

UT's freshmen learned some hard lessons in last Wednesday night's loss at Mississippi State. Major Wingate picked up four quick fouls and Dane Bradshaw committed three turnovers in his first two minutes as a reserve point guard. The Vols must show better judgment and control if they are to win at LSU.

''We've got to make the right decisions and make smart plays,'' Peterson said. ''We haven't done that yet. Hopefully, we've learned from these last three trips in the conference. I'm hoping so, and I'm eager to see.''


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