Vols' record deceiving

Most fans consider this year's UT basketball team to be far worse than last year's squad. Yet, the current Vols' record (14-11) is only one game off last year's pace (15-10) at this time.

''It doesn't seem like we're only one game behind where we were this time last year,'' head coach Buzz Peterson conceded. ''The reason it seems weird is because of the way we're getting beat on the road.''

With one home game remaining, the 2003-04 Vols have a better SEC home record (6-1) than the 2002-03 Vols (6-2). The difference is the SEC road record. Last year's team went 4-4. This year's team is 0-7 with one road test remaining.

The 0-7 record doesn't begin to tell the story of UT's road futility, however. The Vols lost those seven games by an average of 22.0 points, including a 38-point blowout at Florida and a 32-point annihilation at Kentucky. The closest UT has come to a league road win this season was an 11-point loss (71-60) at Georgia on Feb. 21.

Tennessee's final chance to win an SEC road game comes tonight in Nashville, which happens to be the site of UT's last SEC road win. The Vols beat Vanderbilt 70-65 at Memorial Gym on March 8, 2003.

Peterson and his players are acutely aware of their road futility but they occasionally discuss it, nonetheless.

''We talk about it,'' he said, ''but we don't want to make it a mental issue.''

From all appearances, road games already are a mental issue for the Vols. The Big Orange averages 75 points per game at home, just 62 ppg on the road. UT shoots 46 percent from the field at home, just 40 percent on the road. UT allows 66 points per game at home, yet surrenders 84 points per game on the road. Vol foes shoot just 40 percent at Thompson-Boling Arena but shoot 54 percent on their home floors.

How can a Vol team that is half-decent at home be so pitiful on the road?

''You've got to bring the same intensity you have at home on the road,'' Peterson said. ''That's where we sometimes lag behind.''

The lack of intensity is particularly noticeable on defense. Tennessee plays very passively on the road.

''The defense on the road has not been up to par,'' Peterson conceded.

Another explanation for the lopsided losses on the road is impatience. Once the Vols fall behind by a double-digit margin, things seem to really snowball.

''When we get behind 15-16 points and notice the clock going down, there's a tendency to take a quicker shot,'' Peterson said. ''When you do that, and you're not hitting, it (deficit) can all of a sudden go -- like it did at Florida -- from 15 to 30.

''When you get out of your offense -- get frustrated a little bit -- the score can double. That's what happened in a lot of those (one-sided road losses).''

So, what's the solution to this problem?

''We've got to stay within ourselves, try to (whittle the deficit) down a little bit, instead of trying to knock a home run in,'' Peterson said. ''We're just not a mature club on the road, when it comes to taking those quick shots late.''


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