Runnin' on empty

Every car owner understands the equation: The faster you run your engine, the faster you run out of fuel. Dane Bradshaw's engine always runs full throttle, and that caught up with him Saturday against Texas.

Although the senior forward might be the Vols' most valuable player, Dane Bradshaw played just eight second-half minutes against the Longhorns. He wasn't in foul trouble and he wasn't playing poorly. Basically, his injury-plagued body just gave out on him.

"He had no gas in the tank," Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl said.

Although a recent MRI revealed no structural damage, Bradshaw has been playing through significant shoulder pain in recent weeks. He has a bone bruise in his right one and tendinitis in both. These problems are magnified by Bradshaw's gung-ho style of play – crashing the boards, diving for loose balls, taking charges, etc.

"Dane's like a running back," Pearl said. "He just takes a physical pounding."

Taking a pounding takes a toll. Bradshaw played the last two months of the 2005-06 season with a badly injured right wrist that required post-season surgery. He's battling an assortment of injuries this season that have limited his effectiveness the past few games.

"Dane's an absolute warrior," Pearl said. "He's gone through one physical ailment after another."

Since producing 11 points and 9 rebounds in a 34-minute Game 9 outing vs. Memphis, Bradshaw has seen his minutes and production slip. He recorded 6 points and 0 rebounds in 23 minutes vs. Western Kentucky, then 7 points and 4 rebounds in 22 minutes vs. Oklahoma State. After 16 first-half minutes vs. Texas on Saturday, he hit the wall, playing just eight second-half minutes. He finished with a mere 3 points but contributed 6 assists and 4 rebounds.

Bradshaw's value goes far beyond his numbers. He may be Tennessee's best player in the clutch. He's the guy who twice beat national champ Florida last year with last-minute buckets. And he's the guy whose tip-in with 1.9 seconds left upset Oklahoma State last Monday. Against Texas, however, he was on the bench with the game on the line.

Noting that Bradshaw "had nothing energy-wise," Pearl said "the lineups we had out there at the end were lineups that had never been out there."

Although the Vols won Saturday's game with a limited contribution from Bradshaw, they'll need more from him in the months to come. Team doctors hope therapy and perhaps an occasional cortisone shot will help him manage his ailments. Still, the best cure may be rest.

Noting that Bradshaw's right shoulder was "OK" against Texas, Pearl added: "I think he'll be fine. When he goes home, gets himself a little home cooking, relaxes for a few days and lets that body rest and heal, Dane will be fine."

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