Copycats 'R' Us

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, the Basketball Vols should feel pretty flattered. Their last two opponents tried to out-Tennessee Tennessee. It didn't work either time.

In hopes of counteracting UT's superior ball-handling and pesky defensive pressure, Mississippi State went with a small lineup last Wednesday. By starting 6-4 Reginald Delk in place of 7-2 Wesley Morgan, the Bulldogs' lineup measured 6-8, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, 5-9.

It didn't help much, though. The smaller lineup helped reduce turnovers but Mississippi State still came out on the short end of an 88-65 score.

It was more of the same Saturday night. Like Tennessee, South Carolina went with a small lineup. Like Tennessee, Carolina tried to spread the floor and rely on a superior point guard (Tre Kelley) to break down the defense. Like Tennessee, Carolina tried to offset a lack of size with great quickness.

In the end, though, trying to out-Tennessee Tennessee worked little better for the Gamecocks than it did for Mississippi State. Carolina committed just 11 turnovers but got beat 43-30 on the backboards and lost 81-65 on the scoreboard.

Vol coach Bruce Pearl noticed that South Carolina's gameplan was very similar to Tennessee's.

"Tre Kelley (like UT's C.J. Watson) is hard to stop off the bounce," Pearl noted. "They spread the floor. They play small but it does cost them some when you shoot 56 percent the second half (as Tennesssee did) and you see a stronger inside presence from Andre Patterson and Major Wingate and in the rebounding."

Mississippi State and South Carolina made significant adjustments in an attempt to better match up with UT's personnel. Both hoped to neutralize the Vols' strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Both tried to out-Tennessee. Both failed.

"That's the game," Pearl said. "That's why it's a chess match from that standpoint."

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