Vandy was Vol low point

When Vanderbilt hammered Tennessee 88-63 on Jan. 8 in Knoxville, changes began occurring in Big Orange Country:

- Fans were so humiliated they angrily vented their frustration on Knoxville sports-talk shows.

- Head coach Buzz Peterson was so humiliated he took the orange practice jerseys away from his players, saying they needed to learn to appreciate the value of a UT scholarship.

- The Vols were so humiliated they began playing harder and smarter.

The biggest change, though, was that Tennessee lifted itself out of mediocrity ... albeit temporarily. The Big Orange stunned No. 11 Mississippi State 64-63 in its very next game. Then the Vols outplayed South Carolina in Columbia only to lose 66-63 on some horrendous officiating in the game's final minutes. Next, they upset Florida at Gainesville, 83-76 in overtime.

''We were executing the game plan,'' Peterson said. ''We were doing a good, solid job. I even felt better when we were on the road (at Columbia and Gainesville) because the team was focused. Even when we lost at South Carolina, the guys did a good job of sticking with the game plan. We had the right players getting the right shots at the right time.

''We were playing very good and feeling pretty confident. But, as I said before, as soon as you get it (momentum), you can lose it pretty quick.''

Sure enough, the Big Orange quickly lapsed back into its old ways -- losing by 23 to Louisville, by 22 to Kentucky and by three to a woefully inept Auburn team that was 0-5 in SEC play coming in. Peterson concedes his team has hit the skids but suggests the loss of 6-10 Brandon Crump to a sprained ankle is the reason.

''Nine or 10 days ago I felt really good about our ballclub,'' he said. ''I liked how things were going but one ankle sprain really changes the whole makeup of your team. That's what we're fighting right now.''

Whereas UT followed its lopsided loss to Vandy by playing its best ball of the season, Vandy followed up the lopsided win by playing its worst ball of the season. The Commodores lost their next four games before beating Ole Miss last Saturday in Nashville.

''It's kind of been the reverse for Vanderbilt,'' Peterson noted. ''They played well against us, and they've been trying to find themselves since then.''


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