Can Harper haunt UT again?

Vol basketball coach Buzz Peterson concedes that Ole Miss standout Aaron Harper ''concerns me a lot'' heading into Wednesday night's game at Thompson-Boling Arena.

No wonder. In addition to being one of the SEC's premier players, Harper played a key role in the firing of Peterson's predecessor. Four years ago, as a freshman playing in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at Nashville, Harper scored 21 points - including 15 in the game's final 5:00 - lifting the Rebels to an 86-73 defeat of UT. The loss was Tennessee's ninth in 15 games after a sizzling 16-1 start and drove another nail into Jerry Green's coffin. When the Vols lost their NCAA Tournament opener to unheralded Charlotte one week later, Green was canned.

Peterson is in no danger of being canned but his seat is getting a little warm now that the Vols have lost seven of their last nine games. If the Big Orange is to reverse this downward spiral, it must contain Harper. At 6-7 and 217 pounds, he is the kind of oversized wing player who tends to give Tennessee fits. He is averaging 16.1 points per game, and is coming off a 30-point effort last Saturday against Auburn. Moreover, Harper is the Rebels' career leader in 3-point baskets (263) and currently ranks fourth among SEC players in 3-point percentage at 39.7.

''He's hit some big-time shots for them,'' Peterson said. ''He'll be a big-time focus for us ... that we keep him at bay a little bit. He'll be somebody our wings know about. It is a 'must' that we stop him. By the time I get through talking about him (in practice), he'll (sound like) an All-American. He's a heck of a player.''

Yep. Just ask Jerry Green.


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