Buzz punishes Vols

Vol basketball players have lost their shirts ... literally. <P> Noting a lack of Tennessee Pride (the attitude, not the sausage) in Saturday's pathetic 88-63 homefloor loss to Vanderbilt, head coach Buzz Peterson has forbidden the Vols to wear their traditional orange practice jerseys until further notice.

Noting a lack of Tennessee Pride (the attitude, not the sausage) in Saturday's pathetic 88-63 homefloor loss to Vanderbilt, head coach Buzz Peterson has forbidden the Vols to wear their traditional orange practice jerseys until further notice.

''I will not let them put on a Tennessee practice jersey today ... there's no way,'' Peterson said during his Monday news conference, adding that his players need to understand ''what a priviledge it is to wear a Tennessee uniform.''

Peterson, who grew up in Asheville, N.C., recalled coming across the Smoky Mountains to watch Tennessee (his father's alma mater) play at Stokely Athletics Center back in the 1970s.

''The way those guys competed was just unbelievable,'' the coach said.

Conversely, the only thing unbelievable about Saturday's game with Vandy was how POORLY the Vols competed. They came out flat and essentially disgraced themselves on CBS television.

''I don't know if our guys understand what it means to put on that uniform,'' Peterson said, ''so I'm taking it away from 'em until they show me different. They'll have to bring their own practice stuff. They will not wear a Tennessee practice shirt until I see some sense of pride that they're playing at the University of Tennessee.''

There appears to be a glaring lack of leadership on the team, and Peterson seems to recognize as much.

''We don't have that one person who's going to crawl down somebody and challenge the rest of them ... be vocal about it,'' he said. ''We don't have anybody who's going to be very vocal about it, so that's why I've got to be careful which buttons I push.''

Tennessee has three captains -- Brandon Crump, Scooter McFadgon and C.J. Watson -- but all are low-key guys better suited to following than leading.

''They're pretty quiet; we all know that,'' Peterson conceded, later noting: ''They've got to step it up. I've put the challenge to 'em. I'm sure they'll come out there today pretty fired up and we'll have a pretty good two-hour practice ... hopefully get things turned around quickly and get a win (versus Mississippi State) Wednesday night.''

The head man admitted that his team's greatest problem is not a lack of physical skills but ''the mental part.'' That's a tricky area to assess and correct. ''It's hard to figure out sometimes where our mindset is,'' Peterson said.

The key question: Can the Vols (8-6 overall, 1-1 SEC) bounce back from the Vandy debacle and salvage the season?

''If they come like they did after the Nebraska game,'' Peterson said, referring to a 62-61 homefloor loss on Dec. 30, ''I think they can.''

This time will be a lot tougher, though. The Vols bounced back following the Nebraska loss against a woefully inept Coastal Carolina team. This time they must bounce back against a Mississippi State team that is 14-2 overall, ranked No. 18 nationally and riding a 16-game ROAD winning streak.

POST SCRIPT: Pat Summitt once became so frustrated with her Lady Vol basketball players that she stopped them from dressing in their palatial locker room for a full month. If the practice shirt-ban doesn't work, maybe that could be Buzz's next option.


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