Turnover kings

Tennessee forced a season-high 33 turnovers in its 2005-06 opener against East Tennessee State but that mark could fall Wednesday night at Starkville.

Mississippi State (11-7 overall, 1-4 SEC) commits an average of 18.3 turnovers per game, ranking dead last among the 12 league teams in that category. Tennessee (12-3, 3-1) forces an average of 20.4 turnovers per game, ranking first among SEC teams in that category.

Every player on Mississippi State's roster has more turnovers than assists – except Reginald Delk with 15 of each – so ball security isn't exactly a team strength. Thus, UT coach Bruce Pearl may utilize his trademark full-court pressure even more than usual against the turnover-prone Bulldogs.

"I think that's been their weakness," Pearl conceded. "I would think that would be an opponent where our pressure is going to HAVE to be effective in order for us to win."

Still, a lot of full-court pressure doesn't guarantee a lot of success against the Bulldogs.

"It's not always been against full-court pressure where they've turned it over," Pearl noted. "It's been in some other areas."

One reason MSU struggles with turnovers is a lack of consistent play at the point guard position. Six-foot-4 Nashville native Jamont Gordon has played there some. So has 5-9 Jamall Edmondson. So have a couple of other Bulldogs. This makes their attack a little uneven but also a little unpredictable.

"They've got a point guard by committee, which has made them an interesting transition team offensively," Pearl said. "Three or four different guys will bring the ball down the floor. It's a little easier when you know (one guy) is bringing it up.

"When you've got any number of guys who can rebound it, put it on the floor and bring it up, it makes your preparation a little different."

Mississippi State has two big post players in 7-2, 240-pound Wesley Morgan and 6-8, 240-pound Charles Rhodes. They create mismatches which make the Bulldogs a challenge to guard in their half-court attack. Thus, Tennessee's best bet may be to force turnovers before the Dogs can settle into their set offense.

"It's going to be one of the biggest teams in the league against one of the smallest teams in the league," Pearl noted, "so we're going to have to turn ‘em over to beat ‘em."

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