Pace is key ... again

Vanderbilt slowed the pace against Tennessee Wednesday night and nearly upset the 13th-ranked Vols on their home floor. The Big Orange can expect more of the same today against Ole Miss (3 p.m. tip-off at Thompson-Boling Arena).

Tennessee's high-octane offense averages 83 points per game but the Rebels haven't allowed any of their seven SEC opponents to date (including high-scoring Florida and LSU) to notch as many as 80 points. For the season Ole Miss allows just 66.4 points per game ... partly due to good defense and partly due to deliberate tempo.

Thus, the two key questions are:

1. Can Tennessee force a quick tempo?

2. Can the Vols adjust to the Ole Miss tempo or will they struggle with the slower pace, as they did for a half against Vanderbilt?

"I think we adjusted pretty well," senior point guard C.J. Watson said of the Vandy game. "We tried to press them and turn the tempo up and that's what we did sometimes. We should've played a lot better offensively but all you can say is a win's a win."

The Vanderbilt game was a nail-biter because a slow pace increases the value of each possession. An untimely turnover or rushed shot can be the difference between winning and losing. Watson called it "a big possession game," meaning each possession was critical.

Junior forward Dane Bradshaw believes the key to victory is playing hard, no matter what the pace might be. That proved to be the case against Vanderbilt.

"Coach (Bruce Pearl) said he thought we could win if the score was in the 50s to 60s range but he said we could definitely win if we got it into the 80s," Bradshaw recalled. "I thought of that with about three minutes to go. It was 58-58, and I thought, ‘Well, it's going to be a battle.' But I really think us playing so hard and cutting on offense made them miss some shots at the end."

Junior post Major Wingate doesn't get caught up in strategies and schemes. As a result, he isn't worried about what Ole Miss will try to do to neutralize Tennessee this afternoon.

"Teams are going to throw different stuff at us every night," he said, "so we've just got to be ready to play."

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