Bama tough test for UT

In his final game as head basketball coach at Tulsa, Buzz Peterson beat Alabama to win the 2001 National Invitation Tournament title. Oddly enough, he hasn't beaten the Tide since.

Peterson is 0-4 against Bama since taking the reins at Tennessee. The Tide, in fact, is the only Southeastern Conference program the third-year Vol coach has yet to defeat. That does not bode well for UT, which must face Alabama at 9:45 Thursday night in Round 1 of the SEC Tournament.

Bama beat Peterson twice during the 2001-02 season -- winning 95-82 in Tuscaloosa during the regular season, then prevailing 91-72 in the league tournament less than a month later. The Tide went to 3-0 last season, tripping Tennessee 76-71 in Knoxville. Bama then made it four straight on Feb. 14 of this year, rallying from a halftime deficit to prevail 83-70 in Tuscaloosa.

So, what has made the Tide such a tough matchup for Tennessee? One reason is Kennedy Winston, a 6-6 forward who averages 17.3 points per game and can score from all over the floor. He scored 14 second-half points against UT earlier this season. Another is Earnest Shelton, a Memphis native who burned UT for 27 points last month.

''Winston is a 6-6 wing (who can score) inside-out,'' Peterson said. ''Shelton, being from Tennessee, gets real fired up about playing against Tennessee. My first year here I believe he had 20-some points against us as a freshman.''

Peterson also noted that 6-7, 230-pound Bama power forward Chuck Davis ''is somebody who can be a go-to man inside.''

Davis proved that in the earlier meeting with Tennessee, outmuscling the Vols to score 20 points.

As if Peterson's 0-4 record vs. Bama isn't incentive enough to win, the Big Orange also could settle a score Thursday night. Last season's homefloor loss to the Tide knocked UT out of an NCAA Tournament bid and catapulted Alabama into one. With Bama 16-11 overall and 8-8 in SEC play this season, Tennessee (15-12, 7-9) has a golden opportunity to return the favor and knock the Tide off the NCAA ''bubble'' this time.

Reminded of this, Peterson shrugged.

''Our guys read ... I don't know if I'd use that,'' he said. ''But they know that last time we were right there (in position to win). We led by four at halftime and things were going all right. Then they (Tide) went to a little press with a zone. We didn't attack the zone well; we were too passive and didn't get the ball inside like we needed to. Those are some things we need to correct in order to beat Alabama.''


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