Native sons

Tennessee's last two basketball opponents, Florida and Mississippi State, started two native Tennesseans each – which was one more than the Vols started in either game.

Florida's starters included 6-8 Portland product Corey Brewer (who ranks among the SEC's most versatile players) and 6-2 Maryville native Lee Humphrey (who leads the league in 3-point percentage).

MSU's starters included 6-4 Nashvillian Jamont Gordon (who leads the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding and assists) and 6-4 Jackson native Reginald Delk. Reginald's brother, Richard, is an MSU reserve. So is 7-2 Gallatin native Wesley Morgan.

Tennessee starts just one native Tennessean, Memphis product Dane Bradshaw. Naturally, first-year Vol coach Bruce Pearl is less than thrilled about seeing so many native Tennesseans dotting opposing rosters.

"There's no question, as you look to Mississippi State's roster with four players from Tennessee and Florida's roster with a couple, you'd like to hope we can do a better job keeping Tennessee's sons at home," he said this week. "But I can't worry about it now. It's water under the bridge."

Facing Tennessee clearly pumps up natives of the Volunteer State. Gordon scored 10 of Mississippi State's first 18 points last night and finished with a team-high 15. Brewer came out smoking against the Vols last Saturday night, scoring 10 of Florida's first 14 points before injuring his ankle. He still finished with a team-high 20 points.

"Brewer played great till he got hurt," Pearl conceded.

Humphrey was pumped up, too … maybe TOO pumped up. He struggled offensively, finishing just 1 of 5 from the floor.

"He's a great kid but I'm glad he missed those shots," Pearl said. "I kept waiting for him to make one of them. Lee got some shots he would normally make. Maybe the crowd was a factor, and maybe the fact Chris Lofton played so well when they were matched up together put some more pressure on Lee to make some of those shots.

"But he's a terrific player, a great shooter and a great kid. I'm sure he's looking forward to getting a chance to play us again."

Likewise, Bruce Pearl is looking forward to closing the state's borders a bit. Someday he's hoping to have more Tennesseans starting for Tennessee than for the opponents.


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