Perfect Patterson

Tennessee hasn't lost a basketball game Andre Patterson has started this season, and that may not be a coincidence.

The 6-foot-7 217-pound senior has been Tennessee's most productive inside player since SEC action began. His stat line for 10 conference games shows him doubling 6-foot-10 Major Wingate in rebounds (74 to 37) and assists (16 to 8), while quadrupling Wingate in blocked shots (11 to 3) and steals (13 to 3).

"Andre Patterson is playing great basketball, and I think the reason is he's being very unselfish," head coach Bruce Pearl says. "Andre's made a terrific transition. He's not worrying about himself; he's worrying about the team. I've really been impressed with the way Andre has come around as a person. That has helped him as a player."

When Wingate was late returning from the Christmas break, Patterson started in his place Dec. 27 against Alabama A&M. He registered nine points and 14 rebounds that evening, but returned to the bench a game later.

He played his way back into the starting lineup, however, with an outstanding performance in Tennessee's Jan. 21 upset of second-ranked Florida. Patterson was so productive in relief that day – 12 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 blocked shot – that he uprooted Stanley Asumnu for the starting small forward job.

Since then, Patterson has swept the backboards and the Vols have swept all six games they've played.

He had 13 points and 11 rebounds at Mississippi State on Jan. 25, then followed with 13 points and 12 rebounds three days later vs. South Carolina. After an 8-point, 11-rebound effort against Vanderbilt, Patterson had a quiet outing against Ole Miss (6 points, 4 rebounds).

He bounced back in a big way, however, recording 4 points with 10 rebounds in Tennessee's huge win at Kentucky and 15 points with 6 rebounds in last Saturday's win at Georgia. Those victories moved UT to 18-3 overall, to 9-1 in league play and to No. 8 in the Associated Press national rankings.

Although he was inserted into the lineup to provide rebounding, Patterson has provided much, much more. In addition to averaging 10 points and 9 rebounds per game in his six most recent starts, he contributed 10 assists, 8 steals and 6 blocked shots. Like teammate Dane Bradshaw, he's doing a little bit of everything for the Vols.

"The biggest thing is, he's starting to play Bradshaw-like, in the sense that he's starting to play hard," Pearl notes. "Good things are happening to him, and great things are happening to us as a result of it."

Ironically, Patterson's worst scoring performance of the past month may have occurred in his best overall outing.

"He played great against Kentucky, and he only scored four points," Pearl says. "That stat bothered me after the game. He's a senior and he's trying to get closer to where maybe he can play some professionally, and he only scores four points. But you never would've known it by his attitude or his mannerisms. It was good enough for him to have beaten Kentucky.

"Then he played great against Georgia. He's doing lots of things – defending, rebounding, scoring. He's really picking up his play."

And, in the process, picking up the Vols.


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