Danger zone

The Basketball Vols may face their toughest task of the season tonight at 7 in Thompson-Boling Arena. After consecutive defeats of Memphis, Western Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Texas – four NCAA Tournament teams – the Big Orange (10-2) will try to get "up" for a 5-6 Tennessee Tech team.

Based on historical precedent, that will be difficult. Tennessee shocked No. 6 Texas 95-78 last December in Austin, then lost five days later to an Oklahoma State team that would finish 17-16. The Vols stunned No. 12 Florida 76-72 last February in Gainesville, then lost at home three days later to Arkansas. Who knows how the Vols will react coming off FOUR big wins in a row?

Taking Tech seriously is made even tougher by the series history. Tennessee has won 19 of 20 meetings – the loss being a 73-62 embarrassment in 1996 during the Kevin O'Neill era. That also was the only setback in program history to an Ohio Valley Conference school. Tennessee stands 42-1 all-time vs. current members of the OVC.

Like Tennessee, the 2006-07 Golden Eagles play "small ball" with a perimeter-oriented lineup.

Tech's inside starters are 6-7, 225-pound Amadi McKenzie (12 points, 8.6 rebounds per game) and 6-7, 215-pound Jonathan Jones (4.5 points, 5 rebounds).

The Golden Eagles' three-guard attack consists of 6-4 Belton Rivers (18.6 points per game), 6-2 Anthony Fisher (17.9 points, 4.1 assists per game) and 6-4 Rashaud Nixon (7.3 points per game). Fisher was a first-team All-OVC pick in preseason, while Rivers was a second-team selection.

Despite its unimpressive record, Tech is a reasonably competitive team. The Golden Eagles recently beat Northwestern (66-65) and played Vanderbilt to a 13-point loss (75-62) in the San Juan Shootout.

Tennessee is riding a six-game winning streak, fueled by star guard Chris Lofton. The junior sharpshooter is averaging 28.7 points per game and is hitting 51.6 percent (32 of 62) from 3-point range during the six-game surge. For the season he is averaging 22.5 points per game and 4.3 treys per outing.

Following tonight's game, Tennessee hosts East Tennessee State Saturday at 8, then opens Southeastern Conference play Sunday, Jan. 7 against visiting Mississippi State.


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