The 3 ain't free

The Tennessee Vols proved Wednesday night against Vanderbilt they can win without shooting well from 3-point range. They may have to prove it again Saturday afternoon against Ole Miss.

Rod Barnes' Rebels lead the Southeastern Conference in 3-point field goal defense, allowing opponents to hit just 31.7 percent from beyond the arc. Ole Miss is doing even better in league play, limiting SEC foes to a paltry 27.3 percent.

That looms large with Tennessee coming off its worst 3-point effort of the season. The Vols sank just 22.2 percent (4 of 18) from outside the arc against Vandy, including an icy 10 percent (1 of 10) in the first half. Now the 13th-ranked Big Orange (15-3 overall, 6-1 SEC) is looking to bounce back against an Ole Miss team (13-7, 3-4) that plays even stickier defense than the Commodores.

"Ole Miss is one of the most improved teams in the conference," UT coach Bruce Pearl says. "They got off to a great start, and Coach Barnes' teams play as solid defense in anyone in the conference. We're playing well enough to win right now, and yet offense has become more challenging as you go against SEC teams."

Ole Miss opened the season 13-3 overall and 3-0 in SEC play before losing four games in a row over the past two weeks. The Rebels beat Alabama 71-61 at Tuscaloosa in their SEC opener, but have lost at Georgia (72-65) and at Arkansas (71-58) since then. Barnes figures Thompson-Boling Arena may be his team's biggest road test to date.

"First of all I think Coach Pearl has done a great job," Barnes says. "There's a lot of excitement at Tennessee and the kids are playing hard and playing well. It's become one of the toughest places to go and play. We've got our work cut out for us but our kids are in a good frame of mind. They still have confidence, maybe not as much as we had two weeks ago, but we still have confidence that we can win."

Saturday's tip-off is set for 3 p.m. with television coverage provided by JP Sports.


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