Looking to rebound

Tennessee was the SEC's worst rebounding team when Andre Patterson joined the starting lineup Jan. 25. The impact was immediate and dramatic.

Patterson averaged 9.0 rebounds during the next six games and the Vols won the backboard battle in four of the six. They outrebounded Mississippi State 42-40 in Game 16, South Carolina 43-30 in Game 17, Kentucky 38-36 in Game 20 and Georgia 37-25 in Game 21.

After ranking dead last among the 12 league teams in rebound margin during the pre-conference schedule, Tennessee ranks sixth during SEC play.

When the Vols outrebounded Auburn 19-11 in the first half of Wednesday night's game at Thompson-Boling Arena, it appeared their backboard resurgence was going to continue.

Not so. The Big Orange was dominated in the second half, losing the boards 19-6 to finish the game on the short end of a 30-25 tally.

What happened?

"I don't know," Patterson said. "We just didn't come out with the second-half intensity. Coach (Bruce Pearl) has been talking about teams making a run on us the second half. We just have to come out with the same intensity the second half as the first half."

Tennessee was particularly lax on the defensive backboard in the second half of the Auburn game. After allowing the Tigers just three offensive rebounds before intermission, the Vols surrendered eight thereafter. Auburn converted most of these into second-chance points, keeping the game closer than it should've been.

"We've got to contain people on the backboards because when we contain the backboards we're able to run and press," Patterson noted. "It's kind of hard to stop us when we get on that break. The key for us to win is to control the backboards and play great defense."

The backboards will be especially crucial Saturday in Tuscaloosa, where Tennessee visits an Alabama team that ranks third among SEC programs in rebound margin at plus 3.6 per game.

Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. EST with television coverage provided by JP Sports.

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