Praising the posts

The Tennessee Basketball Vols winning a game with interior scoring and defense is about like the New York Yankees winning a pennant with rookies and low-cost free agents. That's just not the way either team operates.

But the Vols made an exception Thursday against Winthrop in Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament. Their interior duo of Major Wingate (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Andre Patterson (12 points, 11 rebounds) clearly outplayed the Eagles' post tandem of Craig Bradshaw (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Phillip Williams (6 points, 1 rebound).

Wingate (5 of 8) and Patterson (6 of 7) combined to sink 11 of 15 shots from the floor. Bradshaw (5 of 17) and Williams (1 of 2) made just 6 of 19. The Vol duo outscored the Eagle duo 27-18 and outrebounded their Winthrop counterparts 17-8.

"Andre had a double-double, really stepped up," UT coach Pearl said noted on his post-game show. "And Major may have had the best game of his career. He blocked three shots and did a terrific job on Craig Bradshaw."

Patterson, a senior transfer who played for UCLA in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, came out smoking vs. Winthrop, producing 10 points and 6 rebounds in the game's first 10 minutes. At that point he was on pace for a 40-point, 24-rebound performance.

"I knew I was the only one who had been to the Tournament, so I wanted to bring that intensity," he said. "Just show everybody a lot of intensity and keep us in the game."

Whereas Patterson was the key early, fellow post Wingate was "The Man" late, scoring 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second-half.

"I knew I had to step up when C.J. (Watson) picked up his fourth foul," Wingate said. "With Jordan (Howell) and his lack of experience, I tried to put the team on my back."

Although Winthrop outrebounded Tennessee 35-33, the Eagles' big men weren't the main culprits. Torrell Martin, a 6-5 guard, led both teams with 13 rebounds. Eight of these came off the offensive glass, suggesting Vol guards weren't putting a body on the agile Winthrop standout to keep him from crashing the boards.

Tennessee's guards didn't do a whole lot offensively, either. Chris Lofton (5 of 14) and Watson (3 of 10) combined to sink just eight of 24 field-goal tries, a frigid 33.3 percent.

Fortunately for Tennessee, a beleaguered defense that was shredded by Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and South Carolina in recent weeks came through in a big way. The Vols limited Winthrop to 39.3-percent shooting and just three points in the game's final 8:48.

"This team showed a lot of heart and a lot of character," Pearl noted. "Just when you think they have nothing left, they come up with big stops."


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