Post game is suspect

Southern Indiana's 6-foot-7 Chris Thompson burned Tennessee for 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Vols' exhibition opener two weeks ago. Last week ETSU's 6-foot-7 Dillion Sneed got 15 points and 11 rebounds against Tennessee. So, you have to wonder: How good is the Vol inside game?

That answer could be forthcoming Tuesday night, when a towering Louisiana-Lafayette team invades Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7:30 tip-off.

The Ragin' Cajuns' starting lineup features 6-11, 268-pound Chris Cameron and 6-10, 238-pound Michael Southall, plus guards who check in at 6-7, 6-7 and 6-5.

Cameron is essentially a space-eater but Southall has skills. He began his career at Kentucky, transferred to Georgia Tech, then sat out the last two years before resurfacing at Lafayette.

Southall scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in an exhibition game against Saint Gregory's, then produced 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 65-47 Game 1 loss at Southern Illinois last Friday, the same night Tennessee was pounding East Tennessee State 106-83.

"Louisiana Lafayette is much better (than ETSU)," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said. "They've got an NBA (caliber) center in Michael Southall, and there's going to be a bunch of guys (scouts) here looking at him. It's a very athletic team."

Southall and Cameron will present serious match-up problems for Tennessee, which starts 6-10, 250-pound Major Wingate at center and 6-4, 200-pound Dane Bradshaw at power forward. Andre Patterson, a 6-7 217-pound senior, and Ryan Childress, a 6-9, 250-pound freshman, are the inside reserves. None of the four Vols could contain ETSU's Sneed, whose Game 1 production would've been much better except that he sank just 3 of 11 free throw attempts.

Pearl conceded that Tennessee "got hammered in there" by Sneed, adding: "That's a real concern. It's not just the post defenders. It's what we have to do on the perimeter to protect our post, as well."

Wingate scored 11 points vs. ETSU but was scoreless in the second half. In addition, he managed just two rebounds. He's a little more physical than last year but still isn't asserting himself the way a 6-10, 250-pounder with his athleticism should.

A key to the game may be Childress. The rugged freshman is very raw but he isn't hesitant to bang underneath the boards. He had 5 points and 4 rebounds – along with 4 fouls – in just 10 minutes of action vs. ETSU.

"I thought Ryan Childress played with some energy," Pearl said. "The crowd was behind Ryan, knowing how challenged he is to play at this level this early in his career. "

The challenge will be even bigger Tuesday night … and so will the guys he's facing.


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