Another tough 'D'

Tennessee's basketball team will face a lot of defensive pressure in Tuesday night's game with Kentucky. Still, it won't be nearly as intense as what the Vols faced in Saturday's 85-62 loss at Louisville.

The 2004-05 Wildcats are a typical Tubby Smith-coached team -- fundamentally sound, athletic, excellent passers and hardnosed defenders. Yet, their defense will be soft compared to the pressure the Vols faced over the weekend. Anyone who saw the UT-Louisville game probably noticed that the Cardinals use more hand-checks than any team in college basketball, even though the hand-check is illegal. Louisville also bumps and grabs -- mostly out on the perimeter.

Vol coach Buzz Peterson did very little complaining, mostly because he knows these tactics were not reserved for Tennessee. Rick Pitino's Cardinals play the same way against every team on their schedule. They foul from the opening tip until the final horn, almost daring the officials to blow their whistles.

''I guess you can't call 'em all,'' Peterson said during his weekly news conference. ''They (Cardinals) are REALLY aggressive. Kentucky's physical inside but doesn't do as much hand-checking as Louisville does.''

Still, Kentucky is capable of playing pretty ferocious defense. The Wildcats proved as much on their recent trip to Oxford. Trailing Ole Miss by double digits for much of the game, the Big Blue switched to a press and turned the game around, ultimately winning 53-50.

''When they got behind at Ole Miss, they really went to fullcourt pressure,'' Peterson said. ''It's a typical Tubby team defensively. With the athletes they have, they really get after the ball and get out in the passing lanes. They make it difficult to run your offense.''

That's why the Vols mut control the tempo Tuesday night, just as they did for the first 27 minutes against Louisville. By maintaining a deliberate pace, the Vols led 53-50 with 13 minutes left. But the Cardinals really turned up the heat defensively at this point, forcing a string of turnovers that ignited a 24-2 run and turned the game around.

''I thought Saturday we saw some really tough pressure on our wings,'' Peterson said. ''That probably made us take some quick shots. That's where we've got to do a better job of handling the pressure, making that extra pass and handling the ball.''

Tennessee's gameplan against UK will be the same one the Vols used against Louisville -- walk the ball upcourt, protect the ball, use most of the shot clock and try to keep the score low. That's the only chance the Vols have to win.

''Tempo is SO important for us,'' Peterson said. ''We've got to control tempo through long possessions and taking care of the ball. We've got to slow it (game's pace) down, shorten the game some and limit Kentucky's possessions.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories